United States

Delaware Governor Markell Wants State to Apologize for Role in Slavery

Delaware governor Jack Markell announced a resolution on Sunday to officially apologize for slavery that occurred in his state.

Markell delivered remarks at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, on Walnut Street near 7th in Wilmington, Sunday morning to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the ratification of the 13th Amendment, which ended slavery in the United States.

“For generations, our country denied and actively contested a basic fact of humanity: that nothing about the color of one’s skin affects that person's innate rights to freedom and dignity,” Markell said. "We must publicly and candidly acknowledge the lasting damage of past sins – damage that continues to reverberate more than 150 years after the abolition of slavery."

During his remarks, Markell announced his support of a joint resolution to officially apologize for slavery that took place in the state of Delaware.

“The resolution being introduced today will do more than write a footnote into the history books that describe the atrocious conditions that some Delawareans inflicted upon people of African descent,” Markell said. “This marks an important moment in owning up to our responsibility to fix the long legacy of damage that continues to result in inequality and unfair obstacles for countless citizens because of their race.”

The House Joint Resolution – which is sponsored by Representative Stephanie T. Bolden (D-Wilmington East) and Senate Majority Whip Margaret Rose Henry (D-Wilmington East – will be introduced next year during a legislative session.

"Slavery is the darkest chapter of our nation’s history,” said Senator Henry. “And while the page has long been turned, the scars from the whippings, the bruises from the shackles, the tears from the torment can still be felt all these years later in the continued struggle against racism, prejudice and the power of the privileged. Who we are as a state and nation is shaped by our history – the good and the bad. And who we can be tomorrow is predicated upon our ability to show empathy for each other today. In my view, an apology for slavery is just that: an act of empathy that won’t undo the past, but will once and for all acknowledge the experience of so many Delawareans who still feel its harsh effects.”

Last month, Markell officially pardoned a man who was found guilty in 1847 of helping slaves in Delaware escape on the Underground Railroad. Markell said the posthumous pardon corrected the injustice committed against Samuel D. Burris, who spent 10 months in prison and 14 years as a slave himself after he was caught helping people escape.

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