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California Assembly Passes Apology for Slavery, Despite Entering Union as ‘Free State’

The California State Assembly voted Thursday to issue an apology for the state’s role in slavery — though California entered the Union as a “free state” in 1850.

The bill, AB 3089, was written by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), and passed as the state legislature considers a variety of other “reparations” bills.

The legislation acknowledges that California banned slavery, but cites the state’s passage of a fugitive slave law, and other aspects of racial discrimination that were practiced in the state. Bay Area Public Radio station KQED noted:

In 1852, the state Assembly passed California’s fugitive slave law, which allowed enslavers to recapture formerly enslaved people they had brought to California before the state’s entrance into the union — and forcibly remove them to slaveholding states in the South.

A leading supporter of the fugitive slave bill in the state Senate, Sen. James Estill, owned fourteen slaves on his Solano County farm.

And in 1854, the state Legislature approved a non-binding resolution supporting the Kansas-Nebraska Act, the explosive federal law allowing the expansion of slavery nationwide into U.S. territories.

The text of the state’s apology reads as follows:

If the State Senate approves the bill, the apology will be mounted on a plaque in the Capitol and displayed at the state archives.

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