A state apology for slavery would acknowledge “the most fundamental sin in Delaware’s long history”

Posted January 24th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,
Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

We can now add Delaware to the list of U.S. states where there is a popular movement to finally acknowledge the history of slavery and, perhaps, to apologize for that history.

The story until this month: in 2010, the Dover City Council passed a resolution, at the urging of the city’s human rights commission, asking the state legislature to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow. Since that time, no member of the Delaware General Assembly has been willing to put forward such a resolution.

Since January 1, however, there has emerged a movement in Delaware to have the governor issue pardons to three Delaware abolitionists who were convicted in the 19th century of aiding enslaved people along the Underground Railroad.

In response, historian Samuel B. Hoff of Delaware State University, who was chair of the Dover Human Relations Commission in 2010, is calling for the public to capitalize on the current momentum to address the state’s racial past, not on pardoning a handful of abolitionists for their crimes, but by finally acknowledging that these should never have been crimes: that state laws supporting slavery “were themselves morally bankrupt.”

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Will Mississippi finally offer an apology for slavery?

Posted January 13th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,

This is the season for state legislatures to consider whether to finally offer an apology for their role in slavery and racial discrimination, as eight states in the North and South have seen fit to do in recent years.

On Friday, we reported on the apology bill which has been filed in the new session of Georgia’s House of Representatives. That resolution would express the Georgia General Assembly’s “profound regret” for the state’s historic role in slavery.

This morning, we have word that an apology resolution has been filed in the Mississippi State Legislature by Rep. Willie Perkins (D-Greenwood).

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Will Georgia finally apologize for slavery?

Posted January 9th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta)The last time we provided an update here on the effort to have U.S. states to apologize for their role in slavery and racism, we reported that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution which would have expressed “profound regret” for the state’s part in slavery and segregation. This was back last spring, and despite the fact that the state legislature’s lower chamber had softened the resolution’s language, which originally would have offered “profound apologies,” the state senate ignored the resolution. As a result, the proposal will expire next week, when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes for another term.

However, in the new year, there is another active effort to have a state apologize for slavery, this time in Georgia. We first reported about this on social media last month, when Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) announced that in January, at the start of the legislative session, he would press for an apology for the state’s role in slavery and Jim Crow.

Brooks’ resolution, which is designated H.R. 3 and which can be found here, would have Georgia’s General Assembly express its “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery, “atone” for that history, and call for “reconciliation among all Georgians.”

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The 114th Congress and legislation on slavery, race, and African American history

Posted January 8th, 2015 by
Category: Modern issues, Public History, Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now that the 114th Congress has convened the first session of its two-year term, it’s time to take stock of the status of legislation related to slavery, race, and African American history. What happened to legislation which was pending before the 113th Congress, and what new legislation has already been proposed in the new session?

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Hot off the press: our new book, “Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites”

Posted December 30th, 2014 by
Category: News and Announcements, Public History Tags: , , , , , ,

Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014)Update: Interpreting Slavery is now back in stock at Amazon.

We’re pleased to announce the release of the Tracing Center’s new book, Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014).

“This seminal work … will make a significant impact.”

— Rex M. Ellis, Associate Director, Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture

Interpreting Slavery, edited by Kristin Gallas and James DeWolf Perry, is the most visible product to date of a three-year Tracing Center project to develop and disseminate best practices in slavery interpretation. This project has also included surveys of the field, workshops at historic sites and museums, conference presentations and instructional sessions, as well as additional publications.

The book is a collaboration with seven leading public historians with deep expertise in navigating the interpretation of slavery:

  • Dina A. Bailey, National Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Patricia Brooks, National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Richard C. Cooper, National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • Conny Graft, Conny C. Graft Research and Evaluation
  • Linnea Grim, Monticello
  • Katherine D. Kane, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center
  • Nicole A. Moore, Museum Educator and Historic Consultant

Interpreting Slavery at Museums and Historic Sites aims to move the field forward in its collective conversation about the interpretation of slavery—acknowledging criticism of the past and acting in the present to develop an inclusive interpretation of slavery. Presenting the history of slavery in a comprehensive and conscientious manner requires diligence and compassion—for the history itself, for those telling the story, and for those hearing the stories—but it’s a necessary part of our collective narrative about our past, present, and future.
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Developing comprehensive and conscientious interpretation of slavery

Posted September 16th, 2014 by
Category: Public History Tags: ,

Developing Comprehensive and Conscientious Interpretation of Slavery at Historic Sites and MuseumsThis year, Tracing Center staff wrote a “technical leaflet” on interpreting slavery for the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH).

“Developing Comprehensive and Conscientious Interpretation of Slavery at Historic Sites and Museums,” by Kristin L. Gallas and James DeWolf Perry, outlines the strategic guidance and major lessons for interpreting slavery which are featured in our forthcoming book on interpreting slavery, due out by the end of the year from Rowman & Littlefield.

We’re pleased to say that this technical leaflet was included as an insert in the most recent issue of History News, the magazine for AASLH’s membership, and is now available to the general public through the AASLH web site.

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“The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro”

Posted July 4th, 2014 by
Category: History Tags: , , , , , ,

Frederick DouglassThis post was originally published on July 4, 2013 and is reposted today in commemoration of Independence Day, in all its meanings.

It is always worth making time, on the Fourth of July, to remember those people and movements whose courage and sacrifice advanced and improved upon the ideals on which the United States was founded. This is true even for those which may have seemed radical, subversive, or even unpatriotic at the time.

In that light, we highly recommend the Fourth of July oration delivered by abolitionist Frederick Douglass in Rochester, N.Y. on July 5, 1852, entitled “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”1

The following brief excepts from Douglass’ speech illustrate not only his burning hatred for slavery and his withering scorn for those who would not extend the nation’s liberty to all its children, but also his praise for all that is good in the American experiment, and his optimism for the future:
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  1. Our thanks to Mass Humanities, among others, for laboring diligently to make this speech, and its spirit, an integral part of our Independence Day celebrations each year. []

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