Delaware Apologizes for Slavery


The Delaware House of Representatives has passed a resolution apologizing for the state’s role in slavery and segregation.

The resolution “acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow,” and “apologizes, on behalf of the people of Delaware, for the State’s role in slavery and the wrongs committed against African-Americans and their ancestors who suffered under slavery and Jim Crow.”

It also “recognizes the need to address and educate Delawareans about the social stigma, stereotyping, bias and discrimination which still exist in the state today as vestiges of the institution of slavery,” and “expresses its commitment to rectify the lingering consequences of the misdeeds committed against African-Americans under slavery and Jim Crow and to stop the occurrence of human rights violations in the future.”

The bill passed overwhelmingly on January 14, with only one member, Rep. Richard Collins, R-Millsboro, voting no. It is “a powerful symbolic gesture,” bill sponsor Stephanie T. Bolden, D-Wilmington East, told the News Journal. “We were one of the last states to end slavery, but we don’t have to be one of the last to recognize the terrible damage it did.”

The Thirteenth Amendment was ratified 150 years ago, on December 6, 1865. Most whites in the South refused to accept the emancipated status of Black people. Three states failed to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment until the twentieth century: Delaware in 1901, Kentucky in 1976, and Mississippi in 1995.

At least eight other states have issued apologies for slavery, starting with Virginia in 2007. The federal government has not done so; the House and Senate passed separate resolutions in 2008 and 2009 but none has passed both chambers and been approved by the president.

Slavery in America traumatized and devastated millions of people. It created narratives about racial difference that still persist today. Slavery fostered bigotry and racial discrimination from which we have yet to fully recover. Delaware’s resolution acknowledging the enduring legacy of slavery and Jim Crow is an important step in discussing and confronting our history of racial injustice.