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Alabama Governor Signs Slavery Apology

PHILLIP RAWLS | May 31, 2007 04:02 PM EST | AP

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MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Gov. Bob Riley signed a resolution Thursday expressing "profound regret" for Alabama's role in slavery and apologizing for slavery's wrongs and lingering effects.

"Slavery was evil and is a part of American history," the Republican governor said. "I believe all Alabamians are proud of the tremendous progress we have made and continue to make."

Alabama is the fourth Southern state to pass a slavery apology, following votes by the legislatures in Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Alabama's Democrat-controlled Legislature approved the resolution last week.

The signing occurred in the state Capitol, which also served as the first capitol of the Confederacy in 1861. The Capitol was also the end of the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march that led to passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

The resolution describes "centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices" and says "the vestiges of slavery are ever before African-American citizens."

It also says the House and Senate "express our profound regret for the State of Alabama's role in slavery and that we apologize for the wrongs inflicted by slavery and its after effects in the United States of America."

Riley said he said he signed the resolution partly because it offered an opportunity to present a new image for his state.

"Alabama's a different state today and we should be proud of it," Riley said.

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led the voting rights march in 1965, Alabama's Legislature was all white. Now it is one-fourth black.

"This proves Alabama is open for everyone and we are ready to improve race relations," said state Rep. Mary Moore, a Birmingham Democrat who sponsored the resolution. "The issue of slavery and its impact on the country had been kept in the closet until a few Southern states said, 'We want to take it out of the closet.'"