Slavery Apology

On June 19, 2018, the Charleston City Council voted 7-5 to apologize for the City’s role in supporting the institution of slavery based on a draft resolution created by members of the Social Justice Racial Equity Collaborative, led by Melissa Maddox Evans.

The apology by the City of Charleston was significant because:

Nearly half of all enslaved people entered North America through the Port of Charleston.

• Charleston’s prosperity and robust economy were dependent upon the free labor, technical expertise, and craftsmanship of those peoples who were enslaved. Our City has continued to prosper and grow because of this history, and is now recognized as one of the top tourist destinations in the world.

The State of Racial Disparities in Charleston County between 2000- 2015 Report by the College of Charleston’s Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture made it clear that the City’s history supporting slavery and the false belief in white supremacy was continuing to hold back some of its citizens.

• Healing can only begin after the recognition and apology of wrongs. The recognition and apology is the first step of Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation and lays the groundwork for the deeper healing to follow.

• Charleston is not the first public body to apologize for slavery. As an example, during the June 1995 Southern Baptist Convention, an apology was given to African Americans for “defending slavery in the antebellum South for condoning racism in our lifetime.” Other cities, including Annapolis, Maryland and Macon Georgia, and 9 states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Connecticut and Virginia, have passed official resolutions apologizing for their roles in the institution of slavery.

Charleston’s Apology for the City’s role in supporting slavery was made possible by the votes of Mayor John Tecklenburg and 6 council members: William Dudley Gregorie (resolution committee member), Carol Jackson, James Lewis, Robert M. Mitchell, A. Peter Shahid, Jr., and Michael E Seekings.

An outpouring of support at the June 19, 2018 City Council Meeting and the following Apology Endorsements.

Charleston’s Continuing Role since the Apology on Slavery:

• The City of Charleston created a Special Commission on Equity, Inclusion, and Racial Conciliation.

The John C. Calhoun statue taken down from its perch above Charleston’s Marion Square.

The Charleston City Planwas adopted with strength in diversity as one of its guiding principles.

The Commission on Equity, Inclusion, and Racial Conciliation delivered its Report and Recommendations to City Council in August of 2021. Council did not accept their report.

Press Coverage

“Problems of high social complexity cannot be peacefully solved by authorities from on high; the people involved must participate in creating and implementing solutions.” – Adam Kahane, Solving Tough Problems