The Senate unanimously passed a resolution yesterday apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution and the latest attempt by the federal government to take responsibility for 2 1/2 centuries of slavery.
"You wonder why we didn't do it 100 years ago," Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), lead sponsor of the resolution, said after the unanimous-consent vote. "It is important to have a collective response to a collective injustice."
The Senate's apology follows a similar apology passed last year by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-simmering issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution cannot be used in support of claims for restitution. The House is expected to revisit the issue next week to conform its resolution to the Senate version.
Harkin, who called the Senate's vote an "important and significant milestone," said he wanted the resolution passed yesterday to closely coincide with Juneteenth, a holiday first celebrated by former slaves to mark their emancipation.