Legislation creating a federal commission to study how the U. S. government can apologize for slavery and make reparations to the descendants of slaves is receiving renewed attention in Washington after calls grew last summer amid nationwide racial justice protests.
A House committee is debating a bill Wednesday that would direct more than a dozen experts to examine how the U. S. government supported the institution of slavery from 1619 to 1865 and created laws that discriminated against formerly enslaved people and their descendants through the present day.
The commission would then recommend appropriate remedies, including possibly compensation and ways for Congress to educate the American public on the legacy of slavery
The debate over reparations for Black Americans began not long after the end of the Civil War. This bill to study the issue was first sponsored by former Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan in 1989. Conyers reintroduced the bill every session until he retired in 2017.
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Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the resolution’s new sponsor, re-introduced the bill in January. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N. J., filed a companion version of the bill in April.
“Economic issues are the root cause for many critical issues impacting the African American community today,” Lee said when introducing the bill last month. “Truth and reconciliation about the ‘original sin of American slavery’ is necessary to light the way to the beloved community we all seek.”
Black Americans are almost twice as likely to live below the poverty line as white Americans and on average are paid less than their white peers, no matter their profession or education, according to recent Census data. Black people are also less likely to own a home than other racial and ethnic groups, a key asset for building wealth…. (Read more)