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Former U.S. slave port stirs debate after apologizing for its key role in slavery some 150 years ago

June 20, 2018 at 09:00 pm | News

Bridget Boakye

Bridget Boakye | Contributor

June 20, 2018 at 09:00 pm | News

Slaves in Sullivan's Island, South Carolina. Source: Blackartblog

On Juneteeth 2018, a city where 40% of all U.S. slaves entered the country has apologized for its role in the slave trade.

The apology came from the city of South Carolina where ships dropped off thousands of shackled Africans. According to the International African-American Museum, some 80% of African-Americans can trace their roots back to Charleston.

The City’s Council members gathered a mile from the City Hall, which was built by slaves, to finally apologize for Charleston’s role in the slave trade. Gadsden’s Wharf, where slave ships docked and unloaded at least 100,000 slaves, is a mile from City Hall.

CNN reports that the apology has been in the works for a long time. The resolution for the apology was approved on Juneteenth because of the symbolic importance of the day.

“The vestiges of slavery still plague us today,” Councilman William Dudley Gregorie who brought the resolutions to the council told CNN affiliate WCBD. It is widely acknowledged that slave labor was “fundamental to the economy of colonial and antebellum Charleston.”

“Either way, up or down, it will show the world — it will give the world a barometer of where we stand as a city in the 21st century as it relates to racial reconciliation,” he explained.
The two-page resolution is not only an apology but an acknowledgement that slavery “brutalized a people and stripped them of their culture and values”.
“The institution of slavery did not just involve physical confinement and mistreatment. It also sought to suppress, if not destroy, the cultural, religious 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 family, a human condition universal among all peoples of the world,” the resolution reads.

Clearly, not everyone is happy with Charleston’s resolve. Some comments after Associated Press published the news on Twitter suggested outrage.

But others rebutted.

Charleston has become an especially important site in the ongoing conversation on race in the United States. In 2015, a confessed white supremacist went on a shooting spree inside the city’s Emanuel AME Church, killing nine black parishioners.

The resolution’s call on the city to promote equality in city businesses, to memorialize African-Americans’ graves and to create an office of racial reconciliation, will hopefully spring up conversation around such events and other lingering issues.

Charleston NAACP President, Dot Scott, says the apology is worth backing.”Regardless of where it came from,” telling CNN, “it sends a message.”

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