ICYMI: New Piece in The Atlantic Highlights Retrocession’s Roots in Slavery

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May 6, 2021


ICYMI: New Piece in The Atlantic Highlights Retrocession’s Roots in Slavery 

“Adopting the strategy of 19th-century slave traders is a tough sell in a plurality-Black city.”

Washington, D.C. —  Yesterday, D.C. historians George Derek Musgrove and Chris Myers Ach published a piece in The Atlantic slamming Republicans for offering retrocession as a baseless alternative to D.C. statehood. With little interest in understanding the nuances of retrocession, Republicans have used the argument to hinder progress and push a false narrative of compromise. In doing so, the GOP has preserved the dark legacy of slavery and mirrored the hateful actions of white, slaveholding representatives. As the authors disclose, “slaveholding representatives from Eastern Virginia, anxious to gain more pro-slavery friends in Richmond, helped Alexandrians by pushing a retrocession bill through the state legislature in 1846” to protect the slave trade.

Stasha Rhodes, Campaign Manager of 51 for 51, issued the following statement about retrocession and its ugly history:

“The Republican Party continues to protect, promote, and defend the actions of white supremacists who originally disenfranchised the 700,000 mostly Black and Brown residents of our nation’s capital. By offering retrocession as a deceptive, false compromise, Republicans insult Black and Brown Washingtonians who face the consequences of a rigged democratic system every day through their lack of representation in Congress. Retrocession’s roots in slavery exemplify why D.C. statehood is a critical racial justice fight — we must ensure that the ideas of slaveholders have no place in today’s politics. It is time to make D.C. the 51st state.”

Key excerpts of The Atlantic article below:

  • “D.C. has been separate from Maryland for 230 years. It has its own identity, culture, and interests, and the citizens of D.C. want the full power of statehood—a representative and two senators—to advocate for those interests in the national legislature.”
  • “By 2019, a Washington Post/University of Maryland poll found that opposition to retrocession had climbed to 57 percent, while 51 percent of Marylanders favored statehood for the District.”
  • “Representative Johnson and other supporters of retrocession evince no substantive knowledge about the District or interest in its struggle for representation. No retrocession advocates have met with D.C.’s elected leaders or longtime voting-rights advocates.”
  • “Given such opposition, it is ironic to witness states’-rights Republicans clamoring for a proposal that involves the federal government forcing an unwanted mandate upon unwilling citizens.”

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About 51 for 51:

51 for 51 is a coalition of D.C.-based and national groups committed to equal representation for the over 700,000 D.C. residents who remain locked out of our democracy. The coalition of 20 progressive groups believe American citizens living in the District deserve a voice in Congress and control over their own local laws. Already, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Senators Warren, Markey, Gillibrand and Hickenlooper have endorsed 51 for 51’s proposed path to statehood. 

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