Virginia expresses regret for role in slavery

RESOLUTION: Saturday's measure, which passed the State House and Senate on a unanimous voice vote, also expressed regret for `the exploitation of Native Americans'

AP , RICHMOND, VIRGINIA

Mon, Feb 26, 2007 - Page 7

The Virginia General Assembly voted unanimously to express "profound regret" for the state's role in slavery, the latest in a series of strides the Southern state has made in overcoming its segregationist past. Sponsors of the resolution passed on Saturday say they know of no other US state that has apologized for slavery, although Missouri lawmakers are considering such a measure. The resolution does not carry the weight of law but sends an important symbolic message, supporters said.

"This session will be remembered for a lot of things, but 20 years hence I suspect one of those things will be the fact that we came together and passed this resolution," said Delegate A. Donald McEachin, a Democrat who sponsored it in the House of Delegates.

The resolution passed the House 96-0 and cleared the 40-member Senate on a unanimous voice vote. It does not require Governor Timothy Kaine's approval.

The measure also expressed regret for "the exploitation of Native Americans."

The resolution was introduced as Virginia begins its celebration of the 400th anniversary of Jamestown, where the first Africans arrived in 1619. Richmond later became another point of arrival for Africans and a slave-trade hub.

The resolution says government-sanctioned slavery "ranks as the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history, and the abolition of slavery was followed by systematic discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism, racial bias, and racial misunderstanding."

Among those voting for the measure was Delegate Frank Hargrove, an 80-year-old Republican who infuriated black leaders last month by saying "black citizens should get over" slavery.