Local News

New N.C. House Bill Asks Businesses To Uncover Past Links To Slavery

Posted April 14, 2005

— RALEIGH, N.C. -- Companies that want to do business with state government would have to disclose any past financial links to slavery under a new bill.

The bill does not call for any sanctions against companies that profited from slaves unless they refuse to research and disclose the information.

Rep. Larry Womble, D-Forsyth County, said his bill calling on North Carolina businesses to search their records for any links to slavery is not about punishment. He said it's documenting history -- warts and all.

"Once we admit that this kind of thing went on here in North Carolina, we can move on," Womble said.

Critics said they don't want to be seen as supporting slavery, but they question the purpose in digging up sins of the past.

Phil Kirk, executive director of North Carolina Citizens for Business and Industry, calls Womble's bill a well-intentioned but unfair, burden.

"It's a meaningless bill that doesn't do anything," he said. Kirk believes it could open Pandora's box if slave reparations pick up support.

The bill also would require companies to file affidavits stating they have searched records for any investments in or profits derived from slavery. The names of slaves or slaveholders discovered also would have to be disclosed.

"If anybody thought they had some information on something they thought a business did 150 years ago, and that business signed a pledge or statement saying they didn't, that's grounds for a lawsuit," Kirk said.

This legislation is patterned after bills in other states. Some longstanding corporations in Chicago ended up apologizing for their past links to slavery.

Womble said he doesn't know of any companies doing business with the state with that kind of past.

The measure will soon go before the full House.


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