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Knoxville City Council unanimously passes resolution apologizing for urban renewal policies

Knoxville Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie filed the resolution and the city council unanimously passed it Tuesday evening.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The Knoxville City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday that apologized for past actions hurting African American communities and works to address equity restoration.

The resolution was requested by Vice Mayor Gwen McKenzie. If approved, the city council would recognize that before healing can begin in African American communities, the council must "acknowledge the hurt in our history inflicted on African Americans."

The resolution apologizes for predecessors' participation in the enslavement of Black people in Knoxville. It also apologizes for decades of a federal Urban Renewal program that demolished Black communities to expand public infrastructure. 

Knoxville's Urban Renewal projects lasted 1959 - 1974, according to documents supporting the resolution. Officials said that 15 African American churches were affected by the projects, and more than 2,500 families were displaced.

Due to the program, Black families and businesses were forced to relocate from long-established communities, the resolution says. As a result of the relocation, families declined further into poverty and were moved into new housing projects which left them isolated in segregated areas. 

It also apologizes for denying Black families the opportunity to own homes through "redlining," in which applicants are denied loans due to where they live. As a result of the Urban Renewal program, generational poverty was created in Knoxville's Balck communities, the resolution says.

Knoxville City Council will create an African American Equity Restoration Task Force comprised of business, community, financial, education, faith, healthcare, youth and city leaders.

The resolution also requests that the administration commit $100 million by applying for local, private, state and federal grants over a 10 year period to support the African American Equity Restoration Task Force's solutions.