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.


A state apology for slavery would acknowledge “the most fundamental sin in Delaware’s long history”

Posted January 24th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,
Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

Famed abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of the many enslaved who escaped to freedom through Delaware

We can now add Delaware to the list of U.S. states where there is a popular movement to finally acknowledge the history of slavery and, perhaps, to apologize for that history.

The story until this month: in 2010, the Dover City Council passed a resolution, at the urging of the city’s human rights commission, asking the state legislature to apologize for slavery and Jim Crow. Since that time, no member of the Delaware General Assembly has been willing to put forward such a resolution.

Since January 1, however, there has emerged a movement in Delaware to have the governor issue pardons to three Delaware abolitionists who were convicted in the 19th century of aiding enslaved people along the Underground Railroad.

In response, historian Samuel B. Hoff of Delaware State University, who was chair of the Dover Human Relations Commission in 2010, is calling for the public to capitalize on the current momentum to address the state’s racial past, not on pardoning a handful of abolitionists for their crimes, but by finally acknowledging that these should never have been crimes: that state laws supporting slavery “were themselves morally bankrupt.”

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Will Mississippi finally offer an apology for slavery?

Posted January 13th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , ,

This is the season for state legislatures to consider whether to finally offer an apology for their role in slavery and racial discrimination, as eight states in the North and South have seen fit to do in recent years.

On Friday, we reported on the apology bill which has been filed in the new session of Georgia’s House of Representatives. That resolution would express the Georgia General Assembly’s “profound regret” for the state’s historic role in slavery.

This morning, we have word that an apology resolution has been filed in the Mississippi State Legislature by Rep. Willie Perkins (D-Greenwood).

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Will Georgia finally apologize for slavery?

Posted January 9th, 2015 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta)The last time we provided an update here on the effort to have U.S. states to apologize for their role in slavery and racism, we reported that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted overwhelmingly to approve a resolution which would have expressed “profound regret” for the state’s part in slavery and segregation. This was back last spring, and despite the fact that the state legislature’s lower chamber had softened the resolution’s language, which originally would have offered “profound apologies,” the state senate ignored the resolution. As a result, the proposal will expire next week, when the Tennessee General Assembly convenes for another term.

However, in the new year, there is another active effort to have a state apologize for slavery, this time in Georgia. We first reported about this on social media last month, when Georgia state representative Tyrone Brooks (D-Atlanta) announced that in January, at the start of the legislative session, he would press for an apology for the state’s role in slavery and Jim Crow.

Brooks’ resolution, which is designated H.R. 3 and which can be found here, would have Georgia’s General Assembly express its “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery, “atone” for that history, and call for “reconciliation among all Georgians.”

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The 114th Congress and legislation on slavery, race, and African American history

Posted January 8th, 2015 by
Category: Modern issues, Public History, Repair and reparations Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Now that the 114th Congress has convened the first session of its two-year term, it’s time to take stock of the status of legislation related to slavery, race, and African American history. What happened to legislation which was pending before the 113th Congress, and what new legislation has already been proposed in the new session?

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Tennessee weighs an apology for slavery

Posted April 16th, 2014 by
Category: Repair and reparations Tags: , , , ,

Formerly enslaved Tennesseans and their descendants, c. 1890Yesterday, we reported on our Twitter and Facebook accounts that the Tennessee House of Representatives had voted, 97-0, in favor of a resolution expressing “profound regret” for the state’s role in slavery and racial segregation—but only after stripping the resolution of its original language offering “profound apologies” for this history.

This move by one chamber of the Tennessee General Assembly to express regret for slavery and discrimination follows a wave of such actions by states between 2007 and 2009, culminating in a failed attempt by the U.S. Congress to apologize for the nation’s role in slavery. And while this action comes several years later than the others, it fits the established pattern for such expressions of remorse.

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