McConnell Marks 400th Anniversary of Our Land’s “Shameful History of Slavery”
‘Today, Congress observes the 400th anniversary of a reprehensible moment in the history of our land… In many ways slavery is the United States of America’s “original sin…” But every American should take pride in the undeniable progress we have made in overcoming the terrible chapter that was opened 400 years ago. We should take pride that our American ideals of equality and justice — not the sins of our forefathers — are the true, deepest bedrock of this great nation.’
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) delivered the following remarks on the Senate floor regarding the 400th anniversary of the first slaves’ arrival in England’s American colonies:
“Today, Congress observes the 400th anniversary of a reprehensible moment in the history of our land. In August 1619, an English ship landed at the tip of Virginia’s Lower Peninsula. On board were 20-some Africans whom the crew had captured from a Portuguese slave ship. These men and women were sold to the colonists. And with that, England’s American colonies had taken their first step into the already-massive transatlantic slave trade. The shameful history of slavery in what would become our nation had begun.
“In many ways slavery is the United States of America’s ‘original sin.’ This systematic racist exploitation wove its way into the colonies’ economies and societies. Almost two centuries later, the disgusting practice was a stumbling block in our founding debates, ultimately allowed to continue for the sake of union. Some of our founders participated personally even as they argued the philosophical case for equality under God and under law.
“Thomas Jefferson owned slaves while he wrote the Declaration of Independence — and the shameful inconsistency was not lost on him. ‘Indeed,’ Jefferson wrote, ‘I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.’ And indeed, justice did not sleep forever. The last century and a half have seen the moral truths on which this nation is founded slowly overcome one racist evil after another.
“After an unthinkably bloody Civil War, slavery in America was no more. Almost a century later, much too late, the failures of Reconstruction and the cruelty of Jim Crow began giving way to the heroism of the Civil Rights Movement. Change has come too slow. The process has been incredibly imperfect. But every American should take pride in the undeniable progress we have made in overcoming the terrible chapter that was opened 400 years ago. We should take pride that our American ideals of equality and justice — not the sins of our forefathers — are the true, deepest bedrock of this great nation.
“Today, with the nation, Congress looks back to 1619 and remembers the size and scope of slavery’s stain on our history. We mark this somber anniversary with grief for all the slaves whose God-given freedoms were so brutally denied. We reflect gratefully on the tremendous, rich contributions that generations of African-Americans have made to this nation despite this violence and adversity. And we give thanks that true American values slammed the door on this unjust part of our nation’s history and continue to prevail today.”
Related Issues: History