Slave ownership by Georgia could sway slavery apology debate

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SAVANNAH, Ga. -- Several Georgia lawmakers have opposed efforts to issue an official state apology for slavery, but they could be swayed knowing their predecessors authorized the state purchase of slaves, a legislator said.

As state lawmakers debate issuing an official apology for slavery similar to those passed by the Virginia Legislature and the North Carolina Senate, an Associated Press review of 19th-century records kept by the Digital Library of Georgia at the University of Georgia shows the state's role went beyond regulating and taxing slave owners. Georgia bought and sold slaves as well.

Knowing this might sway some legislators who have been reluctant to support an apology for the sins of long-dead Southern planters and industrialists, said state Sen. Eric Johnson, the top-ranking Republican in the GOP-controlled Senate.

"Some resist expressing any sort of apology because they or their family weren't involved," said Johnson, the Senate's president pro-tem. "If the state actually did buy and sell and own slaves, that may make it more comfortable for people in the state to express regret over slavery."

Needing workers to build roads and improve river transportation in 1829, Georgia lawmakers authorized spending $50,000 to buy a state-owned labor force of 190 "able bodied" slaves.

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