WASHINGTON (AFP) — US President Barack Obama on Friday highlighted a "historic" resolution passed by the Senate apologizing for the "fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery."
The comments by Obama, the first African American president, were contained in a statement on the oldest commemorated anniversary marking the end of slavery following the US Civil War.
"African Americans helped to build our nation brick by brick and have contributed to her growth in every way, even when rights and liberties were denied to them," Obama said in a statement.
"In light of the historic unanimous vote in the United States Senate this week supporting the call for an apology for slavery and segregation, the occasion carries even more significance."
Obama's statement commemorated the day in 1865 that slaves learned at the end of the Civil War that they were free.
The commemoration of June 19, has become known as "Juneteenth."
On Thursday, the Senate passed a bill stating that the US Congress "acknowledges the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery and Jim Crow laws" that enshrined racial segregation at the state and local level in the United States well into the 1960s.
House of Representatives approval, which could come as early as next week, would make it the first time
the entire US Congress has formally apologized on behalf of the American people for one of the grimmest wrongs in US history.
The bill does not require Obama's signature.
But in a step that has angered some African-American lawmakers, the measure takes pains not to fuel the push for the US government to pay reparations to the descendants of African slaves.
Supporters of the bill hope that Obama will attend a ceremony to mark its final passage in early July.
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