Boston’s City Council is apologizing for slavery and Boston’s role in it in its flourishing centuries past.
“When a harm is done, the first step is to acknowledge the harm and to apologize for the fact that this hasn’t been done and yet, yet it at the municipal level is stunning to me,” City Councilor Tania Fernandes Anderson, who was introducing the resolution on Wednesday with Councilors Ruthzee Louijeune and Kendra Lara.
All 12 members present voted in favor of passing the resolution, which is a non-binding expression of will from the body and not a law in itself.
The title of the resolution was the “Resolution to Acknowledge, Condemn and Apologize for the Role Played by the City of Boston in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and the Ongoing Detrimental Impacts Experienced by the Black People of Boston.”
With the resolution, the council “expresses its deepest and most sincere apology for the city’s connection and responsibility in the transatlantic slave trade, the death, misery, and deprivation that this practice caused” and pledges to remove “prominent anti-Black symbols in Boston,” and teach how slavery “impacted Boston’s past and present systems of oppression.” The council through the resolution also moves to create a “registry of truth and reconciliation so that Bostonians who wish to express regret for past injustices can express their remorse” and pass policies that “repair past and present harm done to Black Americans via systemic racism.”
Massachusetts outlawed owning slaves with its constitution in 1780, but it did serve as a busy port in the “triangle trade” of routes between America, the United Kingdom and African nations. The U.S. federally outlawed slavery in 1865 following the Civil War.
Multiple councilors spoke in favor of it: Fernandes Anderson, Lara, Louijeune, Ricardo Arroyo, Julia Mejia, Kenzie Bok and City Council President Ed Flynn.
“We definitely will not heal the wound if we don’t admit the knife is there,” Lara said.
City Councilor Frank Baker, perhaps the council’s most conservative member, said he is “uneasy” about apologizing for the actions of other people so long ago, but added, “but II think if my words can help your community heal and our community in Boston heal, and then I’m absolutely in favor of this.”
The council separately has raised the possibility of reparations for slavery, but there’s no proposal at this point to move on that.
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