jim crow, apologies, slavery reparations
Mark Humphrey/AP
Sen. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn.

U.S. House Apologizes for Jim Crow

July 30, 2008 12:05 PM
by Josh Katz
The House of Representatives passed a resolution Tuesday apologizing to African Americans for slavery and the Jim Crow era.

30-Second Summary

Rep. Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker from a primarily black district in Memphis, Tenn., spearheaded the nonbinding resolution. It admits to the “injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow.”

No branch of the federal government has apologized for slavery before. Besides apologizing, the resolution also claims that, “the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day,” and states a commitment to prevent “the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.”

The Jim Crow era stretched 100 years, from the abolition of slavery in 1865 to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. State and local governments, mostly in the south, passed the laws meant to prevent African Americans from receiving many of the rights granted to them after the Civil War. Jim Crow was also characterized by policies of segregation, validated by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson’s “separate but equal” decision.

Some people have called for the payment of monetary reparations to descendents of slaves, but the resolution did not mention that issue.

Lawmakers in the United States apologized to Native Americans in April for the treatment they have historically received from the government. For the 100th anniversary of the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1993, the Senate apologized for its “illegal” actions. And in 1988 the government apologized for the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

Internationally, Canada and Australia both apologized to their aboriginal communities this year for past mistreatment.

Headline Links: House apologizes to African Americans

Background: The Jim Crow era and the Civil Rights Movement

Related Topics: Apologies in the U.S. and abroad

Apologies in the United States
Recent international apologies

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