Because of 'the atrocities of the past,' Charleston officially apologizes for slavery

FILE - The entrance to the Slave Market and Museum in Charleston,  South Carolina. More slaves passed through the
port of Charleston  than anywhere else in America.
FILE - The entrance to the Slave Market and Museum in Charleston, South Carolina. More slaves passed through the port of Charleston than anywhere else in America. online@thestate.com

It wasn't easy and it was far from unanimous, but it is official. Charleston has formally apologized for its role in slavery.

Tuesday night the Charleston City Council voted, by a 7-5 margin, to approve a resolution that denounces slavery and calls for tolerance in the future, live5news.com reported.

Charleston is known for its history, but part of that includes being a vital cog in the slave trade. Nearly half of all Africans brought to North America as slaves from the 16th through 19th centuries were channeled through Charleston, abcnews4.com reported.

"The world is looking," said William Dudley Gregorie, the black city councilman who created the resolution, according to postandcourier.com. "This document ... apologizes for the atrocities of the past."

Not everyone who turned out for the city council meeting agreed with Gregorie.

Prior to the vote, there was an hour of public comment and almost two hours of debate from city council members, The Associated Press reported. At one point, things got so heated Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg cleared the chamber.

Durham City Council member Mark-Anthony Middleton says "the greatest legacy of the Confederacy, of slavery, is not a statue" but the institutions it celebrated.

There are four black city council members, but not all of them voted for the resolution. Perry Waring said the resolution would not do enough to create a level playing field economically.

"We need to work on the economic side of things so our community can go forth together in harmony and financially," Waring, a descendant of slaves, said according to live5news.com.

Bill Moody, another councilman to vote against the resolution, echoed those sentiments.

"I said an apology without any kind of works to go with it is really an empty apology," Moody said, according to abcnews4.com.

The councilman who drew most of the ire from the crowd, and his fellow council members, was Harry Griffin.

He said his constituents did not want to apologize for something they played no part in perpetuating, adding it was legal at the time and an apology adds up to rewriting history, live5news.com reported.

"We cannot pick and choose history," Griffin said, according to postandcourier.com, which said that comment drew a negative reaction from the crowd.

In spite of the back and forth, the resolution was ultimately passed. While much of the rancor was centered on events that occurred centuries ago, Gregorie said it has eerie parallels to some current events.

"I do think that as a council, we have an opportunity to make history, not to right wrongs, but to recognize that the seat of the Confederacy was wrong," Gregorie said, according to the AP. "It was wrong to enslave people. It was wrong to treat people as property and chattel and sell their children and breakup families, Sound familiar. It's happening today, folks."

Storytelling, music and more marked Rock Hill, South Carolina, annual Juneteenth Celebration of Freedom on Saturday at Mt. Prospect Baptist Church. Juneteenth commemorates the June 19, 1865, announcement of the abolition of slavery.

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