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House apologizes for slavery, 'Jim Crow' injustices

  • Story Highlights
  • It is the first time federal government has apologized for slavery
  • House acknowledges "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity" of slavery
  • Resolution states that effects of slavery and Jim Crow are still present today
  • Measure does not address the issue of reparations
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a resolution apologizing to African-Americans for slavery and the era of Jim Crow.

The House on Tuesday evening passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The House on Tuesday evening passed a resolution apologizing for slavery and Jim Crow laws.

The nonbinding resolution, which passed on a voice vote, was introduced by Rep. Steve Cohen, a white lawmaker who represents a majority black district in Memphis, Tennessee.

While many states have apologized for slavery, it is the first time a branch of the federal government has done so, an aide to Cohen said.

In passing the resolution, the House also acknowledged the "injustice, cruelty, brutality and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow."

"Jim Crow," or Jim Crow laws, were state and local laws enacted mostly in the Southern and border states of the United States between the 1870s and 1965, when African-Americans were denied the right to vote and other civil liberties and were legally segregated from whites.

The name "Jim Crow" came from a character played by T.D. "Daddy" Rice who portrayed a slave while in blackface during the mid-1800s.

The resolution states that "the vestiges of Jim Crow continue to this day."

"African-Americans continue to suffer from the consequences of slavery and Jim Crow -- long after both systems were formally abolished -- through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity and liberty, the frustration of careers and professional lives, and the long-term loss of income and opportunity," the resolution states.

The House also committed itself to stopping "the occurrence of human rights violations in the future."

The resolution does not address the controversial issue of reparations. Some members of the African-American community have called on lawmakers to give cash payments or other financial benefits to descendents of slaves as compensation for the suffering caused by slavery.

It is not the first time lawmakers have apologized to an ethnic group for injustices.

In April, the Senate passed a resolution sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, that apologized to Native Americans for "the many instances of violence, maltreatment and neglect."

In 1993 the Senate also passed a resolution apologizing for the "illegal overthrow" of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893.

In 1988, Congress passed and President Reagan signed an act apologizing to the 120,000 Japanese-Americans who were held in detention camps during World War II. The 60,000 detainees who were alive at the time each received $20,000 from the government.

CNN's Deirdre Walsh and Scott Anderson contributed to this report.

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