Virginia Joint Resolution 728 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Virginia Joint Resolution 728


In the 1850 census, Virginia listed 472,528 slaves within its borders, the
most of any state in the United States. Slavery was the backbone of the state’s economy,
as it was in most of the other Southern agrarian states, states that would
eventually split off from the Unites States to form the Confederate States of America. Even after the end of the
Civil War, and especially after Reconstruction, the legacy of slavery lived on
in Virginia and elsewhere, with the imposition of Jim Crow laws that kept black
citizens separate from white citizens in public and private life.

157 years after that census, Virginia came full circle. The former slave
state, which had elected the first black governor into power in 1989,
apologized for slavery and for mistreatment of its American Indian population.
In a unanimous voice vote on February 22, 2007, the Virginia Senate passed a
resolution apologizing for slavery. On February 24, 2007, the Virginia
Assembly voted unanimously on the same bill. The resolution, reproduced below,
is the first such resolution to be passed by any state, southern or

On March 27, 2007, the Maryland legislature approved a bill that expressed
“profound regret” for slavery. On April 8, 2007, the North Carolina Senate
passed a similar resolution and on April 11, the North Carolina House followed
suit, also passing a resolution apologizing for Jim Crow laws and segregation.
On April 24, both the House and Senate of Alabama approved slavery

House Joint Resolution No. 728

WHEREAS, 2007 marks the 400th anniversary of the first permanent English
settlement in the Americas, at Jamestown; and

WHEREAS, the legacies of the Jamestown settlement and the Virginia colony
include ideas, institutions, a history distinctive to the American experiment
in democracy, and a constellation of liberties enshrined in the Virginia Declaration of Rights and the Virginia and
United States Constitutions; and

WHEREAS, the foremost expression of the ideals that bind us together as a
people is found in the Declaration of Independence,
which proclaims as “self-evident” the truths “that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that
among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”; and

WHEREAS, despite the “self-evident” character of these fundamental
principles, the moral standards of liberty and equality have been transgressed
during much of Virginia’s and America’s history, and our Commonwealth and
nation are striving to fulfill the ideals proclaimed by the founders to secure
the “more perfect union” that is the aspiration of our national identity and
charter; and

WHEREAS, these transgressions include the maltreatment and exploitation of
Native Americans and the immoral institution of human slavery, policies and
systems directly antithetical to and irreconcilable with the fundamental
principle of human equality and freedom; and

WHEREAS, Native Americans inhabited the land throughout the New World and
were the “first people” the early English settlers met upon landing on the
shores of North America at Jamestown in 1607; and

WHEREAS, records relating to the early relations between Native Americans
and the settlers indicate “the Mattaponi, a part of the powerful Powhatan
chiefdom, greeted settlers in 1607 and, along with other Powhatan tribes, were
visited by Captain John Smith,” that “the Chickahominy Tribe had early contact
with the English settlers due to their proximity to Jamestown,” and that “the
Rappahannock Indians, possessing thirteen villages on the south and north sides
of the Rappahannock River, first spoke to Captain John Smith in 1608 at their
kingstowne, ‘Cat Point Creek’”; and

WHEREAS, Native Americans provided food for the settlers, aiding the
survival of 32 settlers during the first winter and later taught them how to
grow crops; and

WHEREAS, Native American leaders have worked diligently to preserve and
protect their heritage, history, and culture, and when public education was
denied Native American children, the leaders ensured their children’s education
by sending them to American Indian schools in Oklahoma and Kansas; and

WHEREAS, Virginia enacted laws to restrict the rights and liberties of
Native Americans, including their ability to travel, testify in court, and
inherit property, and a rigid social code created segregated schools and
churches for whites, African Americans, and Native Americans; and

WHEREAS, the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 which institutionalized the “one
drop rule,” required a racial description of every person to be recorded at
birth and banned interracial marriages, effectively rendering Native Americans
with African ancestry extinct, and these policies have destroyed the ability of
many of Virginia’s indigenous people to prove continuous existence in order to
gain federal recognition and the benefits such recognition confers; and

WHEREAS, during the course of the infamous Atlantic slave trade, millions of
Africans became involuntary immigrants to the New World, and the first African
slaves in the North American colonies were brought to Jamestown in 1619;

WHEREAS, slavery, or the “Peculiar Institution,” in the United States
resembled no other form of involuntary servitude, as Africans were captured and
sold at auction as chattel, like inanimate property or animals; and

WHEREAS, to prime Africans for slavery, the ethos of the Africans was
shattered, they were brutalized, humiliated, dehumanized, and subjected to the
indignity of being stripped of their names and heritage, and families were
disassembled as husbands and wives, mothers and daughters, and fathers and sons
were sold into slavery apart from one another; and

WHEREAS, slavery, having been sanctioned and perpetuated through the laws of
Virginia and the United States, ranks as the most horrendous of all
depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our
nation’s history, and the abolition of slavery was followed by systematic
discrimination, enforced segregation, and other insidious institutions and
practices toward Americans of African descent that were rooted in racism,
racial bias, and racial misunderstanding; and

WHEREAS, the most abject apology for past wrongs cannot right them; yet the
spirit of true repentance on behalf of a government, and, through it, a people,
can promote reconciliation and healing, and avert the repetition of past wrongs
and the disregard of manifested injustices; and

WHEREAS, in recent decades, Virginia’s affirmation of the founding ideals of
liberty and equality have been made evident by providing some of the nation’s
foremost trailblazers for civil rights and electing a grandson of slaves to the
Commonwealth’s highest elective office; and

WHEREAS, the story of Virginia’s Native Americans and the enslavement of
Africans and their descendants, the human carnage, and the dehumanizing
atrocities committed during colonization and slavery, and, moreover, the faith,
perseverance, hope, and endless triumphs of Native Americans and African
Americans and their significant contributions to this Commonwealth and the
nation should be embraced, celebrated, and retold for generations to come; now,
therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, That the General
Assembly hereby acknowledge with profound regret the involuntary servitude of
Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation
among all Virginians; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the
settlement at Jamestown, the General Assembly call upon the people of the
Commonwealth to express acknowledgment and thanksgiving for the contributions
of Native Americans and African Americans to the Commonwealth and this nation,
and to the propagation of the ideals of liberty, justice, and democracy; and,
be it

RESOLVED FINALLY, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates shall post this
resolution on the General Assembly’s website.