(CNN) -- A committee of the New Jersey Assembly on Thursday approved a resolution that would make the state the first north of the Mason-Dixon line to apologize for slavery.
The legislation does not need the signature of New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine to become official.
The resolution was approved by a simple majority, said Jim Sverapa, press secretary for the New Jersey Assembly Majority Office.
The step is just the first of several that must be taken by Monday, the last day of the current legislative session, or the process will have to begin again. Approval is also needed from a Senate committee and both full houses.
The resolution will not need Gov. Jon Corzine's signature. It will become official when filed with the secretary of state.
The symbolic atonement would follow apologies for slavery made in 2007 by legislators in Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Virginia.
New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery, in 1846.
The resolution, championed by Assemblyman William Payne, notes the state, "with as many as 12,000 slaves, had one of the largest populations of captive Africans in the northern colonies."
It adds that New Jersey had one of the most severe slave codes in the North, and was one of the few Northern states to sanction the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which allowed authorities in non-slave states to capture escaped slaves and return them to their owners. E-mail to a friend
CNN's Catherine Clifford and Nkechi Nneji contributed to this report.