TOP STORIES Boston takes the rare step of apologizing for his...

Boston takes the rare step of apologizing for his role in slavery and the irreversible harm it causes.

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At a press conference outside Christopher A. Yannella’s chamber, Boston City Council member Rutzi Luigen on June 15, 2022, urges the council to pass a resolution that the city government apologizes for Boston’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

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At a press conference outside Christopher A. Yannella’s chamber, Boston City Council member Rutzi Luigen on June 15, 2022, urges the council to pass a resolution that the city government apologizes for Boston’s role in the transatlantic slave trade.

Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

BOSTON. Boston has just become the first major city to issue a formal apology for its role in transatlantic slavery.

Nearly four centuries after slavery began here, city ​​council resolution which was passed unanimously on Wednesday, denounces the unique “vileness” of slavery and its legacy of “systemic white supremacy and racism” that is reflected in continued racial disparities in housing, education, income and more. The city council offered “the deepest and most sincere apologies” and acknowledged “responsibility for […] death, suffering and deprivation” that slavery caused.

The resolution, which is non-binding, promises “efforts to undo past and present harm done to black Americans”, eliminate “prominent anti-black symbols” in the city, and increase public awareness of how the slave trade “impacted Boston.” past and present systems of oppression.”

The move is largely symbolic, as it does not provide funding for specific policies or programs, and dispenses with another proposal to set up a commission to study reparations. The measure was considered by the Boston City Council in March but has yet to be put to a vote.

But adviser Tanya Fernandez Anderson, who proposed the resolution with an apology, calls it an “opening salvo.” She said the city must first acknowledge that “the vast personal and institutional wealth in Boston has been built on the backs of enslaved Africans who did not receive any economic benefit from their labor” before the city can “begin a discussion of what truly means destroy harm.”

At a press conference outside Christopher A. Yannella’s chamber, Boston City Council member Tanya Fernandez Anderson at Boston City Hall in Boston on June 15, 2022. Boston City Councilwoman Tanya Fernandez Anderson called on the council to pass a resolution that the city apologizes for its role in the transatlantic slave trade.

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At a press conference outside Christopher A. Yannella’s chamber, Boston City Council member Tanya Fernandez Anderson at Boston City Hall in Boston on June 15, 2022. Boston City Councilwoman Tanya Fernandez Anderson called on the council to pass a resolution that the city apologizes for its role in the transatlantic slave trade.

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L’Merchi Fraser, director of education and interpretation at the Museum of African American History in Boston/Nantucket, also sees an apology as just the first step.

“Apologies cannot bring back lives and cannot explain enslaved people. […] giving up your bloody sweat and tears for the survival of others,” she said. “But the apologies signal a more direct path to reparative and restorative justice.”

City Councilman Frank Baker, who is one of Boston’s more conservative councillors, admitted he was “a little concerned” by the measure because he personally feels “so far away” from the sins of slavery.

“The apology part is hard for me,” he said. “But I think if my words can help your community heal and our community in Boston heal, then I’m absolutely ready to do it.”

Supporters hail the resolution as especially important for a city that still has a racist reputation. Mayor Michelle Wu said in a statement that Boston “should recognize and eliminate the dark parts [its] a story that too often remains untold” and that the city “has an obligation to denounce Boston’s role in the atrocities of slavery and the continuing inequalities that still exist today.”

Rev. Kevin Peterson, founder of the Coalition for a New Democracy who was instrumental in drafting and promoting the resolution, agrees that public recognition of Boston’s past is critical. Since Boston is recognized as the center of the abolitionist movement in 19th century, and because it is considered “the cradle of freedom,” he says, “so many people […] I don’t think slavery could be here.”

Rev. Kevin Peterson, Director of the Coalition for a New Democracy, listens to Boston City Councilman Rutzi Luigen at a press conference outside the Christopher A. Yannella Chamber at Boston City Hall, June 15, 2022.

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Rev. Kevin Peterson, Director of the Coalition for a New Democracy, listens to Boston City Councilman Rutzi Luigen at a press conference outside the Christopher A. Yannella Chamber at Boston City Hall, June 15, 2022.

Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

But in fact, Boston was a busy port for the West Indies and West African slave trade, starting with the sailing of the ship. A wish in 1637–1638, when captive Native Americans were sold in the Caribbean in exchange for enslaved Africans and raw materials. At least 175 transatlantic voyages have been made from Boston, according to SlaveVoyages. online database.

According to Western Washington University history professor Jared Ross Hardesty, quoted in the resolution, about a quarter of all white Bostonians who had their property inventoried between 1700 and 1775 owned enslaved people. At the peak of slavery in Boston in the mid-18th century, Hardesty estimates that over 1,600 Africans were enslaved in Boston.

And while Massachusetts abolished slavery in 1783, Boston remained complicit in the practice for decades, buying slave-produced goods and selling goods and products for slave use or consumption elsewhere. In addition, federal fugitive slave laws provided that former slaves living in states where slavery had been outlawed could be captured and returned to slavery.

While hundreds of local and state governments, universities and other institutions issued statements, plaques and memorials to acknowledge or commemorate past racial violence and injustice (from slavery to segregation or a specific act of lynching, for example), less than 20 Local or state governments have issued formal apologies for slavery, according to the African American Reparations Network, which tracks such moves. (That number is expected to rise slightly as the data collection is completed, they say.)

“What Boston has done is very important,” says Justin Hansford, co-founder of AARN, professor of law at Howard University Law School and executive director of the Thurgood Marshall Center for Civil Rights. “Many municipalities and states have erected monuments to commemorate the historical atrocities, but [there are] there are very few instances of formal apologies for slavery, in part because […] there is this idea that you are hooking yourself up for restitution.

“It’s a big problem,” Hunsford says. “When someone hurt you, you want to apologize. You are trying to repair the relationship, so there must be a sincere expression of remorse.”

Indeed, even if the end goal is to make amends, a formal apology should be the first step in the process. model roadmap developed by the National African American Reparations Commission.

Peterson, who helped push through Boston’s official apology, says he hopes it not only “opens the door” for serious redress talk, but that the open admission of responsibility will force him to. He also hopes to see immediate action on the part of the resolution that promises to remove “prominent anti-black symbols in Boston.”

Rev. Kevin Peterson, director of the Coalition for a New Democracy, speaks at a press conference outside the Christopher A. Yannella Chamber at Boston City Hall, June 15, 2022.

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Rev. Kevin Peterson, director of the Coalition for a New Democracy, speaks at a press conference outside the Christopher A. Yannella Chamber at Boston City Hall, June 15, 2022.

Pat Greenhouse/Boston Globe via Getty Images

“The main target is Faneuil Hall,” says Peterson, referring to the historic building that has become a major tourist attraction, named after Peter Faney, 18th merchant, slave owner and merchant, whose luck stemmed from his complicity in the system of slavery.

While Faneuil Hall is known as the “Cradle of Liberty” where Samuel Adams and other Founding Fathers met and planned the Boston Tea Party and other activities that led to the American Revolution, Peterson calls Faneuil a “white supremacist” and pushes for a name change for many years, even starting fast fast to express your point of view. He says that Boston’s official apology for slavery is now “stimulating” efforts to change the name of “the most egregious expression of white supremacy among our symbols in the city of Boston.”

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