The city of Raleigh apologized Wednesday for it enforcement of and benefit from slavery, segregation and “urban renewal” programs that destroyed Black communities in the city.
The Raleigh City Council issued the apology in a resolution that also authorized city staff to create and fund programs that promote equality.
The unanimous vote came at the end of the meeting with two council members absent and before city leaders take a six-week break for the summer.
“I think there is more work to be done around it,” Council member Mary Black said.
“It is going to be a really heavy lift for the city. And it’s going to be a process that is going to take a while to get to addressing, holistically, the harms of slavery and racism and Jim Crow,” Black said. “It’s a starting point and, of course, there is more to be done.”
The original resolution called for the city to establish a Racial Equity and Reparative Justice Commission that would study the city’s role in oppression of Black people and propose policies “to remediate identifiable harms stemming from any past acts of discrimination.”
The resolution adopted Wednesday instead puts that work on the city staff. The proposed commission “is not closely aligned with statutory authority granted by the legislature,” Interim City Attorney Dottie Kibler had advised the council in a memo.
Six municipalities — Durham, Carrboro, Asheville, High Point, Wilmington and Winston-Salem — and two counties — Orange and Buncombe — have taken similar actions and apologized for their participation in slavery, segregation and discriminatory practices.
The resolution approved by the Raleigh City Council also includes:
Putting information on the city’s website explaining the history of slavery, segregation and “urban renewal” projects in Raleigh.
Instructing the city’s Human Relations Commission to continue its work of educating all people about racism.
Calling on governments at all levels to “initiate reparative justice policies and continue work to address racial inequities.”
Most of the conversation among council members Wednesday afternoon was about particular wording that would give staff flexibility while preserving accountability and intent.
“That level of commitment is there,” City Manager Marchell Adams-David said. “But I don’t want us to overcommit and underdeliver. This is a heavy lift. Not that it doesn’t need to be. But staffing, financial resources, to do all of the components and expectations that have been lifted through this resolution will require some obligations that we don’t necessarily have in place right now.”