Rep. John Conyers re-introduces H.R. 40 on reparations for slavery and discrimination

Posted January 4th, 2017 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , ,

Representative John Conyers (D-Mich.) has re-introduced legislation before the 115th U.S. Congress to acknowledge slavery and racial discrimination, study their impact, and propose remedies.

H.R. 40, numbered in recognition of the unfulfilled promise to freed slaves of “40 acres and a mule,” has been introduced by Rep. Conyers at the start of every Congress since 1989. The bill bears the following formal title:

To address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

If the past is any guide, the short title of H.R. 40 is likely to be, “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”

H.R. 40 has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for (possible) further consideration. Rep. Conyers is the ranking minority member of the Judiciary Committee, and chaired the committee the last time there was a Democratic majority in the House.

Rep. Conyers introduced the previous version of H.R. 40 at the start of the 114th Congress two years ago. It was also referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it languished until the 114th Congress expired this week.

We were honored to have Rep. Conyers speak at a press conference before the world premiere of our documentary, Traces of the Trade, at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008, to highlight the importance of understanding the nation’s complicity in slavery and discrimination in order to make progress towards racial healing and justice.

6 Responses to “Rep. John Conyers re-introduces H.R. 40 on reparations for slavery and discrimination”

  1. Angelo Rigsby Says:


  2. Cynthia Says:

    H.R. 40 "commission to study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act" I have such admiration for Congressman Conyers his dedication to this bill is bibical in proportion. I often wonder what the Congressman feels each time he stands before the US Congress and reintroduces the legislation? Before I go any further I wish to thank him and tell Congressman Contyers how proud I am of his determination to keep this legislation in the forefront.
    I would love the opportunity to testify before Congress about one of the millions of stories that could be told about the yoke of bondage our people suffered under.

    My name is Cynthia Cooper and I am the great grand daughter of an ex-slave at the close of the civil war and before the signing of the Emancpition Proclamation he came of age, and walked out of slavery without a name. He borrowed a name from three different men, not having a birthday, he selected one for himself and never felt a pair of trousers rub his legs until he possibly passed his tenth year.

    In 1896 he became the Corresponding Secretary of The Foreign Mission Board he served for 26 years. He became an authority on Foreign Mission information.
    He made 4 trip's across the seas to Africa and the West Indies and 6 trips to Europe in the interest of the Foreign Mission Board. He is the author of 5 books.

    Dr. Lewis Garnett Jordan should be recognized with a citation from The United States of America his life work and services for his country and for his people is nothing short of a miracle.

  3. James DeWolf Perry Says:

    What a beautiful story. Your great grandfather is surely deserving of considerable recognition for his life's work, and for the experiences he overcame.

  4. Rev Kit Tobin Says:

    Thank you, James, for posting this. I am aware that HR 40 has been reintroduced over and over in Congress, but with all the angst on so many issues at the moment I hadn’t thought about the fact that Representative Conyers would once again be doing so.

    Thank you also for the powerful story shown here as a reply to your article.

  5. jhopkins Says:

    I had NOTHING to do with slavery. My entire family had NOTHING to do with slavery. Why do I have to make "reparations" just because I am Caucasian? Seems to me this bill is racist against Caucasians just because some were involved centuries ago. No one alive was a slave. No one alive was a slave owner. This is total crap and just another attempt at bigotry against Caucasians.

  6. James DeWolf Perry Says:

    You aren't responsible for slavery, of course. But you and your family certainly do benefit from slavery and its legacy.

    What do you think permitted the thirteen colonies to grow wealthy enough to seek independence from Great Britain? What enabled the U.S. to become the lone nation, outside Europe, to industrialize during the 19th century? To achieve a high standard of living and to rise to a position of global economic dominance? To allow white people to be advantaged today in employment, education, housing, and other walks of life, all of which is repeatedly and convincingly demonstrated by researchers?

    The harm done to African-American families by slavery and the legacy of racial discrimination are quite real and endure to this day. Should the U.S. do nothing to compensate families for wrongs perpetrated by the U.S. and its states?

    Whether compensation today for slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing discrimination is appropriate, and if so, how, are tough questions. That's why this bill proposes to start by having a conversation about the matter.

    What's certain, however, is that white people aren't being singled out by the bill, much less simply because many (not just a few) white people committed these historical wrongs. This is about whether the U.S. collectively should atone for this harm, as it has in other cases.

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