DeWayne Wickham: Virginia finally shows contrition for slavery





I think you can say I've got a horse in this race.

On Friday, the Virginia House of Delegates unanimously approved a resolution that expressed a "profound regret for slavery." The vote came a little more than two weeks after Republican Del. Frank Hargrove Sr., objected to a call for the state to apologize for slavery, saying Virginia's "black citizens should get over it." He also said asking Virginia to apologize for slavery would be like asking Jews to say they are sorry for killing Jesus Christ.

Hargrove represents a district in Hanover County, a suburb of the state capital, Richmond. His great-grandfather was a slave owner. My great-great-grandfather, John Wickham, was born into slavery in Hanover Country during the early 1800s.

By the time the House of Delegates voted on the slavery resolution, Hargrove apparently had had a change of mind - if not a change of heart - and joined 90 other members in voting for it. Nine members didn't cast ballots on the matter.

Virginia's Senate is now considering a similar measure. The push for passage of this legislation comes as the state celebrates the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia's first permanent settlement. Twelve years later Jamestown became the birthplace of American slavery.

In the nearly 388 years since that great act of inhumanity, Virginia has done a lot to blacks for which it should be sorry.

In 1662, the state Legislature ordered that the race of children born to slave women and "any Englishman" should be determined by the condition of the mother. In other words, children fathered by white men who had their way with black slave women were born slaves.

In the 1830s, Virginia's Legislature passed a law that made it illegal for any blacks - slaves or free - to preach at a religious service. In 1860, it ordered that any free black who was sentenced to prison for a crime could, at the court's discretion, be sold into slavery. ...


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