Senator Tim Kaine (D., Va.) claimed during a Tuesday speech on the Senate floor that the United States “created” slavery and “didn’t inherit slavery from anybody.”
Speaking in favor of the Justice in Policing Act of 2020, which Kaine introduced with Senators Cory Booker (D., N.J.) and Kamala Harris (D., Calif.) last week, Kaine urged his fellow senators to “dismantle the structures of racism that our federal, state, and local governments carefully erected and maintained over centuries.”
“The first African Americans sent into the English colonies came to Point Comfort in 1619. They were slaves, they had been captured against their will, but they landed in colonies that didn’t have slavery — there were no laws about slavery in the colonies at that time,” Kaine explained. “The United States didn’t inherit slavery from anybody. We created it. It got created by the Virginia General Assembly and the legislatures of other states. It got created by the court systems in colonial America that enforced fugitive slave laws.”
In a statement to National Review, Kaine attempted to clarify his remarks — which were much longer than the prepared speech released by his office.
“There was no law mandating slavery on our shores when African slaves came ashore in 1619. Did slavery already exist in the world? Of course. But not in the laws of colonial America at the time,” Kaine explained. “We could have been a nation completely without the institution. But colonial legislatures and courts, and eventually the U.S. legal system, created the institution on our shores and maintained slavery until the 13th Amendment. As I said, we didn’t inherit it. We chose to create it.”
While the text of the speech mentions the effort “to dismantle the structures of racism that our federal, state, and local governments carefully erected and maintained over centuries,” it makes no mention of Kaine’s claims that America “created” slavery.
“We created it, and we created it and maintained it over centuries, and in my lifetime, we have finally stopped some of those practices, but we’ve never gone back to undue it,” he continued. “Stopping racist practices at year 350 of 400 years, but then taking no effort to dismantle them, is not the same as truly combatting racism. But I’m mindful of the challenge laid down by our young people. No more politics as usual.”
Sen. Tim Kaine: "The United States didn't inherit slavery from anybody. We created it." pic.twitter.com/VM86sRrtn1
— The Hill (@thehill) June 16, 2020
Kaine’s reference of Point Comfort, Virginia appears in The 1619 Project, the New York Times Magazine’s collection of writings and photography, which has been challenged by historians as misrepresenting the American founding. The Times has said the project is designed “to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.”
1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones was awarded the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary last month, and some public schools have already said the writing will be used as an educational resource.
In August 2019, soon after the Times published the project, Kaine wrote an op-ed to commemorate “400 years of African American history” from when the first slaves landed in Virginia.
He also slammed Robert Ray, an attorney on President Donald Trump’s impeachment defense team, for criticizing the project in January. “To me, it seemed like an ad hominem attack on people trying to get at the roots of the effects of slavery in the United States,” Kaine told USA Today. “And it did not bear at all on the impeachment or anything else.”