(CHARLESTON, S.C.) — One southern city wants to apologize for its past.
City officials in Charleston, South Carolina, will vote on a resolution Tuesday that expresses regret for the centuries of human slavery that was administered and regulated by its former lawmakers.
“This is the modern city council which feels the need to make an apology for the institution of slavery in the city of Charleston,” Charleston councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who helped author and shepherd the resolution, told ABC News.
The three-page resolution will be voted on by the council’s 12 members. It needs a majority of seven votes to pass.
The language in the resolution explicitly takes responsibility for the “dehumanizing atrocities” that was condoned for centuries.
The resolution goes on to detail how the economic success of colonial and antebellum Charleston (formerly Charles Town) “was slave labor” and it prospered “due to the expertise, ingenuity and hard labor of enslaved Africans who were forced to endure inhumane working conditions that produced wealth for many, but which was denied to them.”
The document also admits to how the institution of slavery “sought to suppress, if not destroy, the cultural and social values of Africans by stripping Africans of their ancestral names and customs, humiliating and brutalizing them through sexual exploitation, and selling African relatives apart from one another without regard to the connection of the family.”
In the name of “basic decency,” the resolution calls for the city to make a formal “acknowledgment and apology for its role in regulating, supporting and fostering the institution of slavery in the city and the past wrongs inflicted on African Americans here in Charleston and elsewhere.”
The document also lauds the “significant contributions” made to Charleston’s community “by talented and skilled African Americans that are reflected in the agriculture, architecture, artisanship, arts and cuisine of this City.”
“Certainly, the city fathers of Charleston have much to apologize for over the course of history for the treatment of African Americans,” David Shields, a University of South Carolina professor, told ABC News.
Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston pledged his support for the resolution.
“Jesus loved, accepted and embraced all people. Their race, gender or nationality never mattered to Him. Our African American brothers and sisters have suffered greatly because of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This apology is an important step in healing wounds that are still evident, even today,” he said in a statement.
Gregorie, who is also a trustee at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, said the resolution is a long time coming and a testament to the power of collaboration.
He did “extensive research to reach a draft” that was shared with his fellow council members.
Gregorie said he can’t shake the massacre at a Charleston church three years ago that killed nine worshippers.
“We’re trying to turn our pain into something positive,” he stressed. “We recognize that people apologize by the way they live and they’ve given individually; it’s not as if people haven’t been apologizing through action.”
“This is the institution doing its part,” he added.
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