With supporters chanting "forwards, never backwards" on the steps of City Hall, the City Council on Wednesday approved a symbolic resolution to ban a racial slur that has a painful history intertwined with slavery.

The nonbinding measure, approved unanimously, calls for New Yorkers to voluntarily stop using the word, which comes from a long past as a derogatory epithet against blacks but has more recently been adapted among entertainers and youths as a term of endearment.

"People are using it out of context," said Councilman Leroy Comrie, the sponsor of the bill. "People are also denigrating themselves by using the word, and disrespecting their history, disrespecting the history of a people and a country and also putting themselves in a negative light that we need to correct."

The effort began weeks ago at the start of Black History Month, and has gradually gained nationwide notice and support. Other municipalities have passed measures similar to New York City's, and a historically black college in Alabama recently held a four-day conference to discuss the epithet.

In New York, supporters gathered at City Hall on Wednesday, many of them wearing small pins featuring a single white "N" severed by a red slash and circle.