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On this date in 2004, the University of Alabama publicly apologized for the school's associated history of slavery against Africans in the United States of America.
This apology was to the descendants of slaves who were owned by faculty members or who worked on the campus before the American Civil War. The University's Faculty Senate passed a resolution in Tuscaloosa acknowledging and apologizing for their historic role in slavery. A majority of the members present voted in favor of the resolution after an extended debate over amendments and discussion of the meaning of the word “atone."
The vote followed over a month of discussion on campus that began March 16, 2004, when UA law professor Alfred Brophy introduced the resolution at a faculty meeting. Brophy’s action resulted in university President Robert Witt attending a memorial service a week earlier for two slaves buried in unmarked graves on campus. Witt also vowed to lead the university through further efforts to recognize its role in the institution of slavery. Brophy said after the vote. “We are now out in front of lots of other schools that are looking at some of the same issues."
The only faculty member to speak against the resolution was Marvin Johnson, who supported the recognition of those who had contributed to the university. He said he feared that an apology on UA’s role in slavery would put a burden of personal responsibility on current faculty members. “The university as it existed before the Civil War is not representative of the university today," Johnson said. “If we stop to apologize for every building built by slaves, or for every unearthed brick made by a slave or read a document or letter that mentions slaves, we will be apologizing in perpetuity."