Slavery was, as Confederate Vice President Alexander Stephens noted in 1861, the “cornerstone” of the social order in the South. Emory did not simply seek to indoctrinate its students with a world view compatible with pro-slavery ideology, but sought to influence all of southern society. Emory impressed upon its students a pro-slavery ideology which evolved with and paralleled pro-slavery thought across the South.
On July 17, the California legislature quietly approved a landmark bill to apologize to the state's Chinese-American community for racist laws enacted as far back as the mid–19th century Gold Rush, which attracted about 25,000 Chinese from 1849 to 1852. The laws, some of which were not repealed until the 1940s, barred Chinese from owning land or property, marrying whites, working in the public sector and testifying against whites in court. The new bill also recognizes the contributions Chinese immigrants have made to the state, particularly their work on the Transcontinental Railroad.
The apology is the latest in a wave of official acts of remorse around the globe. In 2006, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper made a similar apology, expressing regret to Chinese Canadians for unequal taxes imposed on them in the late 19th century. Last February, Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd apologized to his country's Aborigines for racist laws of the past, including the forced separation of children from their parents. Five months later, the U.S. Congress formally apologized to black Americans for slavery and the later Jim Crow laws, which were not repealed until the 1960s. And most notably, in 1988 the U.S. government decided to pay $20,000 to each of the surviving 120,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned in camps during World War II.
Obama, America's first black president, took his family for a poignant tour of Cape Coast Castle, a seaside fortress used by slave traders starting in the 17th century and which is now a monument to millions of Africans cast into slavery.
"As painful as it is, I think that it helps to teach all of us that we have to do what we can to fight against the kinds of evils that sadly still exist in our world, not just on this continent but in every corner of the globe," Obama said somberly at end of his visit to the compound.
He likened his tour of the slave castle to his visit last month to the site of the former Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald in Germany, saying "it reminds us of the capacity of human beings to commit great evil."
But Obama also suggested that from an African American perspective, seeing Cape Coast was bittersweet.
Twenty-three African American World War II soldiers who were wrongfully convicted of murder are a step closer to financial restitution for their dishonorable discharges and jail time. Following the Senate’s lead, the House Armed Services Committee also asked that cost-of-living and interest adjustments be added to the soldiers’ back pay in the committee’s version of the 2009 defense authorization bill. In 1944, 43 black soldiers were tried in the hanging death of an Italian prisoner of war, Pvt. Guglielmo Olivotto, at Fort Lawton, Wash. Of those, 23 were found guilty of either the murder itself, or of participating in a riot after the murder. All 23 were dishonorably discharged, and several served time at the military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. But according to the research of journalist Jack Hamann, who wrote a book about the case called “On American Soil,” court documents point to a white man, Clyde Lomack, as the real murderer. According to Hamann’s research, Lomack also started the riot to cover up the murder.
DESCENDANTS of black American slaves have accused the Lloyd’s of London insurance market and two United States companies of profiting from the slave trade in a lawsuit seeking billions of pounds in damages. The suit, filed in Manhattan’s federal court, seeks just over £1 billion in punitive damages from Lloyd’s, tobacco firm RJ Reynolds and banking group FleetBoston. The suit also seeks unspecified actual damages. Filed on behalf of six adults and two children, the suit alleges the companies intentionally sought to destroy the plaintiffs’ "people, culture, religion and heritage". Lawyers for the eight plaintiffs said the complaint - unlike past lawsuits seeking reparations for slavery - was the first to use DNA to link the plaintiffs to Africans who suffered atrocities during the slave trade. The plaintiffs said their ancestors were transported from Africa as part of the slave trade from 1619 to 1865. They allege that Lloyd’s insured slave ships, while FleetBoston, then called Rhode Island’s Providence Bank, financed the ships in the slave trade. RJ Reynolds, the suit claims, profited from plantations.
With initiatives like a new financial aid program, Harvard often start trends that ripple through higher education. But when it comes to investigating its institutional history, the University might do well to take a cue from its peers.
Like many venerable American universities, Harvard’s past is tied to slavery: for decades, if not centuries, the University inculcated pro-slavery sentiment and benefitted from funds that were the fruits of the slave trade or slave labor. But unlike many of its peers—such as Brown and Yale—Harvard has never conducted a formal examination of its past.
And though the University has no plans to launch such an investigation, many feel the time is right for Harvard to do so, given that University President Drew G. Faust—a leading Civil War historian and a self-professed “civil-rights advocate and activist”—is at the helm.
Florida joins five other states — Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and New Jersey — that have apologized for slavery.
TALLAHASSEE — In a watershed moment in Florida's race relations, a solemn state Legislature on Wednesday apologized for the Florida's long history of slavery, expressing "profound regret for the shameful chapter in this state's history."
Described as a bid for "reconciliation and healing," the House this afternoon passed a resolution apologizing for state slavery laws dating back to 1822 – decades became Florida even became a state – that "perpetuated African slavery in one of its most brutal and dehumanizing forms."
Earlier, the Senate passed the same resolution with Gov. Charlie Crist looking on.
Legislators in both chambers sat in silence as historian John Phelps, a former House clerk, read a summary of state laws from the 19th Century that denied even basic freedoms to slaves.
Slaves could be subject to 39 lashes of a whip, administered to a bare back, for raising a hand or addressing a white person with language deemed to be abusive or offensive. For crimes as common as robbery, slaves could have their ears nailed to wooden posts for an hour or even be sentenced to death.
By 1860, at the onset of the Civil War and more than 50 years after slavery was outlawed in federal law, some 44 percent of Florida's 140,000 residents were slaves.
The skeletal facts surfaced in April 2007, when an amateur historian named Robert Hughes published his research in the IllinoisTimes, a small paper out of Springfield. Hughes found census records showing that during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries, in Cecil County, Maryland, five households of the Walker family, the president's ancestors via his father's mother, Dorothy Walker Bush, had been slaveholding farmers. The evidence is simple but persuasive: genealogies of the Bush family match up with census data that counted farmers who used enslaved workers. With this, the president joins perhaps fifteen million living white Americans who trace their roots to the long-gone master class.
It's not as though the president is the only politician whose family owned slaves. Of the first eighteen presidents, from George Washington to Ulysses Grant, twelve owned people, eight of them while in office. At one time, Andrew Jackson was even a slave trader. Since Emancipation in 1865, a number of presidents have come from families that once contained slave masters.
LAST SPRING, Yale finally banished a painting of its 17th Century namesake, Elihu Yale, because it depicted him with a dark-skinned servant who wears a shiny metal collar and kneels before him. The overtones had made the portrait toxic in the 1990s, but for 10 years, Yale resisted sporadic demands to remove it from its corporation room, where trustees meet.
Yale was also getting peppered for having dormitory names - Yale calls them "residential colleges"- honoring slave-owning alumni, John Calhoun, the South's famed orator, for one. The agitation stemmed largely from an unofficial history of Yale slavery ties, written by a trio of Yale graduate students in 2001. It had made Yale - rather than the more likely Brown - the North's restive campus in the long drive for reparations for African-Americans.
Yale's president, Richard Levin, felt the North's slavery involvements were "simply a fact of history" in an American past full of embarrassments, and supporters of keeping the names of the residential colleges included key black alumni: Henry Louis Gates Jr., the writer and Harvard's Africana head, who had lived at Calhoun, and former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke, then head of the Yale Corporation and now law-school dean at Howard University.
Yale kept the tarnished names, and declined to launch its own official search for whatever entanglements exist.
Brown's entanglement was more provocative - its namesake Browns owned slave ships and slaves - yet its campus remained free of agitation, except once and then in reverse order. David Horowitz, a West Coast conservative gadfly, bought an ad in the Brown Daily Herald in March 2001 citing 10 reasons to oppose reparations. A minority coalition, furious when BDH editors declined to apologize or make amends, then confiscated a BDH press run, intensifying the turmoil. The issues of free speech and minority grievances triggered wide national debate.
State Lawmaker's Troubles Stalls Recognition of Wilmington White Riot - An Unknown Number of Blacks Killed
It took more than 100 years to bring the race riot of 1898 into the light. Now, the past seems, once again, to be fading.
A package of laws intended to correct the century-old damage, caused by a white supremacist plot to drive blacks from power in Wilmington, has been all but ignored. And the movement's legislative champion, Rep. Thomas Wright, is embroiled in scandal.
"We agonized over this whole process," said Kenny Davis, a member of a commission that spent six years studying the riot. "We came up with recommendations that would improve the quality of life, not only for African Americans, but for everybody in the community. And now they're not being pursued."
Wright, an eight-term legislator from Wilmington, filed 10 bills on the issue when the legislative session started. All but one have failed even to come up for discussion. The remaining bill -- a simple acknowledgment that the incident occurred -- passed the House but faces uncertainty in the Senate.
Some commission members, who worked to uncover what had been one of the state's least-known and darkest episodes, say they are concerned that Wright is no longer effective and that their work may not result in the change they had hoped for.