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"On Slavery: A Miscellany"

March/April 1998 issue of Poverty & Race

· Rep. Tony Hall's (D-OH) June 1997 H. Con. Res. 96 'Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate
concurring), That this Congress apologizes to African-Americans whose ancestors suffered as slaves under the Constitution and laws of the United States until /865" -co-sponsored originally by 6 Republican & 6 Democrat fellow Members of Congress (now up to ³1). is not dead. Pres. Clinton initially gave it some warm words, but then he put the issue aside in favor of his Race Initiative. No committee hearings have been held. While it's been criticized by right and left (the former feeling it's unnecessary and irrelevant, the latter feeling that by itself it's meaningless -' somewhat true if that's all there is. but also, in this editors view, a possible first step toward significant actions), Hall plans to reintroduce it in the [06th Congress. His address: 1432 Longworth. Wash., DC 20515, 202/ 225-6465 (Robert Zachritz is his staffer for this issue).

· We'll send a set of newspaper articles on the apology proposal with a SASE (55c): "For Americans, Nothing is Simple About Making an Apology for Slavery." by Michael Fletcher (Wash. Post. S/I 1/97); "Too Busy Apologizing to be Sorry." by Deborah Sontag, NY Times (6/29/97); "So Sorry? An Apology for Slavery Says Too Much & Too Little," by Charles Krauthammer, Wash. Post (6/27/97): "An Apology Won't Settle This Debt," by Courtland Milloy. Wash. Post (6/22/97); 'Better Late Than Never." by Frank Rich. NY Times (6/22/97); "Before We Apologize, We Should Learn What Slavery Means." by Ira Berlin + Rep. Hall's House speech introducing and providing his rationale for his resolution (Wash. Post. 6/29/97); "Speaker [Newt Gingrich) Scoffs at Proposal for Apology on Slavery," NY Times (6/14/97).

· Meanwhile, our northern neighbors once again (as in such areas as housing and health care) can show us the way: Early this year, the Canadian government promulgated a formal apology for its treatment of Aboriginal people (First Nations, Inuit & Metis). "Our purpose," begins its Statement of Reconciliation, "is not to rewrite history but, rather, to learn from our past and to find ways to deal with the negative impacts that certain historical decisions continue to have in our society today.' It's a no-holds-barred statement, applicable in its details more to our country's Native American population than to African Americans (it covers such issues as suppression of Aboriginal culture and values, with special attention to the damage done by the Residential School system), but represents a remarkable official government act. Beyond apology and recounting of historical injustices, the Statement looks to the future: "We need to work together on a healing strategy to assist individuals and communities in dealing with the consequences of this sad era of our history." Included therefore is a 36-page document, "Gathering Strength: Canada's Aboriginal Action Plan," dealing concretely with such issues as strengthening Aboriginal governance, developing a new fiscal relationship and supporting community economic development. For a (free) set of materials, contact Jane Stewart. Minister of Indian Affairs & Northern Dev., Ottawa, Canada (that should be a sufficient ad-dress); or try Press Sec. John Embruy. 613/996-2007. (At the other end of the spectrum and world, we have the Australians, who, as headlined in a June 6, 1997, NY Times story - which we can send with a SASE - 'Resist Facing Up to Legacy of Parting Aborigines From Families.")

· Other recent formal apologies:
± The Episcopal Church has signed "the New Jamestown Covenant," asking American Indians for forgiveness for its treatment of them following the settlement of Jamestown and the charter that allowed English businessmen to colonize Virginia and spread Christianity among the "savages.
"It's never too late to apologize. Our mistreatment of Native Americans began as soon as we got here, and we have much to repent for," noted Bishop Frank Vest of the Diocese of So. Virginia. We'll send a copy of the Covenant with a SASE.
+ The South Africa Dutch Reformed Church apologized, before the country's Truth & Reconciliation Commission, for its teaching that the bible justified apartheid.
(Wash. Post, 11/20/97)
+ In 1987, the Bishops & Denominational Executives from churches in the US Pacific Northwest offered an
Apology to the Northwest Native American People. A 10th anniversary reaffirmation document was signed last November. We'll send an article on this from The Source (the good monthly newsletter of the Church Council of Ctr. Seattle) with a SASE.
+ The Southern Baptist Convention, at its 1995 Atlanta meeting, passed a "Resolution on Racial Reconciliation....
acknowledging "the role that slavery played in the formation of the... Convention.' the role their forebears played in the slavery system, and that "we continue to reap a bitter harvest" from slavery - an oblique reference to the reparations issue. We'll send a copy with a SASE.
+ Last Spring, as readers know. Pres. Clinton formally apologized, on behalf of the federal government, for the "Tuskegee experiments." in which some 400 black men were denied treatment for syphilis for 40 years (from 1932 to 1972), in order to study how the disease spread and how it killed. (Since 1973, a year after the study was made public, the federal government has paid $10 million in reparations to victims and their heirs.)

· Cardinal Bevilacqua of Philadelphia recently issued a Pastoral Letter, "Healing Racism Through Faith and Truth. "Racism and Christian life are incompatible" are his words. We'll send a copy of the Letter with a SASE (55c).

· Slavery in Washington is a short fi in on the rampant abuse of foreign women who come to the DC area to work as domestic servants for officials with international. agencies. the subject of Martha Honey's lead article in the Nov./Dec. P&R. Contact her at [PS. 733 15th St. NW, #1020. Wash., DC 20005, 202/234-9383. x232 for information:
send us a SASE for a copy of her article, in case you missed it..

· "The Long Shadow of Slavery" is a 9-page special section of the Dec 8. 1997, Newsweek. We'll send a copy with a SASE (55C).

· "How the Cradle of Liberty Became a Slave-Owning Nation," by Susan DeFord, is a long feature from the "Horizon Learning Section" of the Dec. 10, 1998,Wash. Post (along with a shorter article by Michael Richman, "Uncle Tom's Montgomery County Cabin." about Josiah Henson, a slave who lived for 30 years on a 500-acre plantation in what is now Bethesda. and who was the model for Uncle Tom). It is available (single copies free with a 9x12" SASE [78C~) from Horizons, Wash. Post. Wash., DC 20071.

· On the issue of slavery conditions elsewhere in the world: Nat Hentoffs column from the Dec. 27, 1997, Wash. Post. Averting Our Eyes from Slavery [in Sudan & Mauritania]" and letters commenting on the column from representatives of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the American Anti-Slavery Group: "What Modern Slavery Is, and Isn't." by Barbara Crossette. from the July 27. 1997, NY Times: "On [historic] Slavery, Africans Say the Guilt is Theirs, Too," by Howard French, from the Dec. 27, 1994, NY Times. We can send you this batch with a SASE.

· Finally, some nice quotes:
+ From Philip Morrison's recent NY Times Book Review review of James Hershberg's biography of Harvard President James B. Conant: "Our country, he [Conant] said [in 1961], suffers from a disabling 'congenital defect - Negro slavery. 'It is 'a curse from which we are not yet free.'"
+ "We live with the consequences of the slave trade, one of which is the science fiction of race. For a group of people to feel responsible for the sins of the past is not a bad thing, especially if another group is carrying around the burden of the doctrine of inferiority." Theodore Rosengarten (author of All God's Children: The Life of Nate Shaw), in his review of Hugh Thomas' The Slave Trade, from Wash. Book World, 1/18/98).

On Feb. 11, the Advisory Board to the President's Race Initiative held one of its all-day hearings/meetings in San Jose. PRRAC Board member Jose Papilla, head of California Rural Legal Assistance, was one of the panelists.
We asked him for his impressions of the event. The Advisory Board's next public meeting is March 24-25 in Denver. Phone them (202/395-1010) for details and inf. on other future sessions.

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