House to Hold Hearing on Reparations for Slavery

A hearing will be held before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties to consider the “continuing impact” slavery has had on the country and potential next steps towards “restorative justice.”

Reparations bill has long history

The idea of reparations for slavery isn’t new. After the Civil War, Republicans in Congress passed laws requiring the confiscation of former-Confederate property in order to provide the ex-slaves with “forty acres and a mule.” However, in 1866, President Andrew Johnson vetoed the legislation.

In more recent times, in 1989, Former Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan first proposed that Congress study reparations after he sponsored a bill, House Resolution 40. Conyers continue to reintroduce the bill in every session until he resigned in 2017. Democratic Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee took over as the bill’s new sponsor. The House has agreed to hold a hearing over the matter next week.

The panel will also feature testimonies from writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Danny Glover.

The legacy of slavery

In addition to examining the “continuing impact” of slavery on American society, the panel says its purpose is to “examine through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.”

Topic has gained steam with 2020 candidates

Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who is running for president in 2020, introduced a companion bill to that of Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s earlier this year.

“I am proud to introduce legislation that will finally address many of our country’s policies—rooted in a history of slavery and white supremacy—that continue to erode Black communities, perpetuate racism and implicit bias, and widen the racial wealth gap,,” Booker tweeted on April 8, 2019.

“Since slavery in this country, we have had overt policies fueled by white supremacy and racism that have oppressed African-Americans economically for generations,” Booker said in a statement last April. “Many of our bedrock domestic policies that have ushered millions of Americans into the middle class have systematically excluded blacks through practices like GI Bill discrimination and redlining.”

2020 candidates back reparation programs over cash

Several 2020 Democratic presidential candidates have signaled they may support some form of compensation for the descendents of slaves. However, none have directly seemed to support the idea of compensation in the traditional sense, that is, direct payouts being made to black Americans.

Instead, these candidates have hinted at a variety of ideas such as using the reparation money to fund the creation of policies that would address economic inequalities faced by African-Americans.