An Arkansas House committee has rejected a resolution congratulating President Barack Obama on his electoral victory after some lawmakers questioned wording that referred to the United States being founded by slave owners.
Six members of the House Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs voted Wednesday to recommend the nonbinding resolution to the House, while 11 members voted against it. Several of the critics took issue with a sentence that began, “whereas, a nation founded by slave owners…”
“My recollection of American history is that while some of the founders were slave owners, some of them were abolitionists. And some of them were sent to the constitutional convention from states that made slavery illegal,” said Rep. Dan Greenberg, R-Little Rock.
Rep. Ed Garner, R-Maumelle, echoed that argument, adding “this nation was not founded on the basis of slavery, was not founded to promote slavery.”
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Stephanie Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, said she didn’t intend her resolution to be divisive and that she thought it was truthful.
“Just because something is not palatable or might be offensive, you cannot dismiss this as the truth that was present at the time our country formed,” Flowers said.
The resolution notes Obama’s academic and political achievements, before congratulating him “on his historic election as the forty-fourth president of the United States.”
Flowers said she was disappointed but not surprised that the resolution failed. She noted that the majority of Arkansas voters picked Republican presidential nominee John McCain last year.
Flowers said she wasn’t sure if she’d remove the reference to slave owners and bring the measure back before the committee, whose 20 members are all white.
“But I’m hopeful and will remain hopeful that Arkansas as a state can educate our children and ourselves about the truth,” she said.
JILL ZEMAN, AP