Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, one of the sponsors, said the measure was no “panacea,” but could help trigger “reconciliation.”
“I am pleased that Congress has officially offered an apology for slavery and it’s long overdue,” he said. “The formation of my home state of Kansas was centered around slavery and came to be known as ‘Bleeding Kansas.’ I believe that this official apology will enable our nation to begin healing our racial wounds rooted in the institution of slavery.”
The resolution “apologizes to African-Americans on behalf of the people of the United States, for the wrongs committed against them and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow laws” and “aknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws.”
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, was the other sponsor of the bill, which was passed during Juneteenth, a celebration that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States. The apology now heads to the House.
The Senate, however, included this language in the resolution:
(2) DISCLAIMER- Nothing in this resolution—
(A) authorizes or supports any claim against the United States; or
(B) serves as a settlement of any claim against the United States.
The move is not without precedent. The Senate adopted a resolution in 2005 apologizing for filibusters of legislation to combat lynching in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Last year, the Senate adopted an amendment to an Indian health bill apologizing for the historic brutality against American indians. The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 apologized to Japanese citizens and residents forced into World War II-era internment camps.