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Riley signs slavery apology

By Phillip Rawls
Associated Press Writer

MONTGOMERY — Gov. Bob Riley signed a legislative resolution Thursday expressing “profound regret” for Alabama’s role in slavery and apologizing for slavery’s wrongs and lingering effects on the United States.

The action by the Republican governor came one week after the Democrat-controlled Legislature approved the resolution, and it makes the resolution official.

Alabama is the fourth Southern state to pass a slavery apology, following votes by the legislatures in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

The governor’s signing occurred in the state Capitol, which also served as the first capitol of the Confederacy in 1861. The Capitol also was the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march that led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“Slavery was evil and is a part of American history,” Riley said.

But he said he also signed the resolution because it offered an opportunity to present Alabama in a new image.

“I think that this is just another foundational point that we have that we can go back and talk about how much progress we’ve made and try to remove some of those negative stereotypes that have been out there for a while. Alabama’s a different state today and we should be proud of it,” Riley said.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the voting rights march in 1965, Alabama’s Legislature was all white. Now it is one-fourth black.

A sponsor of the resolution, Rep. Mary Moore, D-Birmingham, said Riley kept a commitment made weeks ago to sign the resolution even though some in his own party opposed it. “This proves Alabama is open for everyone and we are ready to improve race relations,” she said.

She said debate over apology resolutions in Alabama and other states has been beneficial.

“The issue of slavery and its impact on the country had been kept in the closet until a few Southern states said we want to take it out of the closet,” she said.

Republicans who opposed the bill said it was inflammatory and could open the door for descendants of slaves to seek reparations.

The Alabama resolution describes “centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices” and says “the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens.” It also says the House and Senate “express our profound regret for the State of Alabama’s role in slavery and that we apologize for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its after effects in the United States of America.”

Another sponsor, Sen. Hank Sanders, D-Selma, said it will help Alabama’s image.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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