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On this date in 2008, New Jersey officially expressed regret for its role in "perpetuating the institution of slavery."
On that date, State Assemblyman William Payne, who sponsored the resolution, and Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, who opposed the resolution, defended their conflicting views. A week earlier, a committee of the New Jersey Assembly approved a resolution that would make the state the first one north of the Mason-Dixon Line to apologize for slavery. The resolution notes that the state, "with as many as 12,000 slaves, had one of the largest populations of captive Africans in the northern colonies."
The resolution 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. New Jersey was the last northern state to abolish slavery in 1846 and is now the first Northern state to officially apologize.
Below is the New Jersey statement:
New Jersey Statement of Apology for Slavery. The Assembly Appropriations Committee reports favorably on Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 270. This concurrent resolution issues a formal apology on behalf of the State of New Jersey for its role in sustaining and perpetuating the institution of slavery. It expresses the State's deepest sympathies and profound regrets to the thousands of slaves and the descendants of those enslaved, who were denied life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness while in bondage.
In tracing the history of slavery and its legacy of inequality from the founding of the Republic to the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s, the concurrent resolution acknowledges the injustices, the broken promises, and the blank checks that have never come to fruition. It calls upon the residents of this State to learn about and gain a deeper understanding of the history of slavery, the legacy of de facto and de jure segregation, and the existence of modern-day slavery to ensure that these tragedies will not be forgotten and will not be repeated. State of New Jersey, January 3, 2008.