About that whole slavery thing ...

Ransom Riggs

... Virginia is sorry. On the eve of the 400th anniversary of the establishment of the Jamestown settlement (in May of 1607), the Virginia state legislature is doing some soul-searching. Last week their General Assembly issued the following statement:

Resolved by the House of Delegates, the Senate concurring, that the General Assembly hereby acknowledge with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans and call for reconciliation among all Virginians. The moral standards of liberty and equality have been transgressed during much of Virginia's and America's history. [Slavery is] the most horrendous of all depredations of human rights and violations of our founding ideals in our nation's history. The most abject apology for past wrongs cannot right them; yet the spirit of true repentance on behalf of a government, and, through it, a people, can promote reconciliation and healing.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, three weeks after the first representative body of government in the western hemisphere assembled -- in Virginia, 1619 -- a Dutch warship sold the Virginia colonists 20 Africans stolen from their homes near present-day Angola. States like Mississippi, Maryland and Missouri are also expressing interest in making similar apologies (though it doesn't sound like they're planning on paying the descendants of slaves back wages or returning any land to Native Americans).

Apparently, though, Virginia is just jumping on the bandwagon; this year is the bicentennial anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Britain, and to mark it Tony Blair delivered a similar apology last September, in which he expressed his "deep sorrow that it could ever have happened and rejoice at the better times we live in today."