Charleston Formally Apologizes for Its Role in Slavery

This is an undated image showing a circa 1780 newspaper advertisement by the slave-trading dealership of Austin, Laurens and Appleby announcing the arrival of African slaves to the American colonies at Ashley Ferry outside of Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo)

A southern city is formally apologizing for its dark past.

Charleston, South Carolina, has approved a resolution that condemns and apologizes for the centuries of human slavery that were supported and promoted by its former lawmakers. The city council’s 12 members voted 7-5 to adopt the symbolic resolution Tuesday night, coinciding with “Juneteenth,” the celebratory anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the United States.

The port city played a major role in the Atlantic slave trade. Nearly half of the people who were abducted from their homes in Africa and shipped to the United States to be sold into slavery took their first steps on American soil in Charleston. Slaves made up almost half of the city’s population before the start of the American Civil War, according to the International African American Museum in Charleston.

“This is the modern city council which feels the need to make an apology for the institution of slavery in the city of Charleston,” Charleston councilman William Dudley Gregorie, who helped author and shepherd the resolution, told ABC News in a telephone interview before Tuesday’s vote.

Gregorie, who is also a trustee at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, said the resolution is a long time coming and a testament to the power of collaboration. He did “extensive research to reach a draft” that was shared with his fellow council members.

The councilman said he still can’t shake the pain caused by the massacre at his church three years ago in which nine parishioners were killed.

“We’re trying to turn our pain into something positive,” Gregorie told ABC News. “We recognize that people apologize by the way they live and they’ve given individually; it’s not as if people haven’t been apologizing through action.”

“This is the institution doing its part,” he added.

Bishop Robert Guglielmone of the Catholic Diocese of Charleston was among those who pledged support for the resolution.

“Jesus loved, accepted and embraced all people. Their race, gender or nationality never mattered to Him. Our African American brothers and sisters have suffered greatly because of slavery and Jim Crow laws. This apology is an important step in healing wounds that are still evident, even today,” he said in a statement.

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SOURCE: ABC News, M. L. Nestel