Charleston, South Carolina has formally apologized for its role in America’s original sin: slavery.
The city council of South Carolina’s oldest and largest city has approved a resolution that condemns its support of centuries of the slave trade. The 12-member council voted 7-5 to approve the resolution on Tuesday (Juneteenth), choosing the anniversary of the day enslaved Africans in Galveston, Texas were told that slavery had been abolished, nearly three years after the passing of the Emancipation Proclamation.
“This city was so enamored with it, or so intertwined with it, that we even started a war — a civil war — in this city to fight over it,” Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg said in an impassioned speech. “The vestiges of slavery and discrimination are still with us even today … repentance is our way to put us back on track.”
According to ABC News, Charleston was a big player in the transatlantic slave trade economy, with “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.”
The apology comes three years after Dylann Roof gunned down nine Black worshippers at Emanuel AME Church, forcing the city to confront its long-standing racial issues. Then-Gov. Nikki Haley successfully called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the South Carolina Capitol grounds following the incident (the flag has flown at the Capitol grounds since 2000).
Yet despite support from many locals, some of the five councilmen who opposed the symbolic apology said they shouldn’t have to apologize for something that they were not apart of.
Councilman Keith Waring, a Black councilman that opposed the resolution, said that an apology would not be enough. “Without economic empowerment—as a descendant of slaves—I cannot support this resolution,” he said.