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Question of Apology for Slavery: Global View
Posted: Friday, June 15, 2001

By Dr. Kwame Nantambu
When in June 1997, Rep. Tony Hall, a Dayton, Ohio Democrat, proposed a national apology by the U.S. government for slavery, mixed public response and/or reaction followed together with some skepticism as to the apology's real intent. For his part, President Clinton has not only put the slavery apology question under consideration but has also adamantly opposed any compensation/reparations for the descendants of those slaves, viz, African-Americans.

Let's now put the institution of slavery in its proper historical context in order to get a more appropriate handle as to exactly who should apologize for this global inhumanity to man.

The first slaves were brought to Portugal in 1441 and this traffic and trade in gold, pepper and ivory, were so lucrative that Castilian (Spanish) sailors began to follow the Portuguese lead in 1453 along the west coast of Africa in search of slaves and financial wealth. It was to overt the danger of fierce competition and possibly war between these two European global powers (Spain and Portugal) that Papal sanction was sought for a Portuguese monopoly. And so it was that on 8 January 1455, the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Nicholas V, issued a Papal Bull titled Romanus Pontifex in which he authorized the Portuguese “to subject to servitude, all infidel peoples”. In another Papal Bull, Inter Caetera issued on 13 March 1456, Pope Nicholas V “granted to Prince Henry, as Grand Master, of the Order of Christ in Portugal, all lands (and peoples) discovered or conquered form Cape Bojafor, in Africa, to and including the Indies.” More

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