Slavery Reparations Bill May be Waiting on Biden’s Desk


On the first day of the 116th Congress, Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX) reintroduced H.R.40, setting up a “Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-American Act.”

Sponsored in the House on January 3, 2019, the bill establishes a commission to look into reparations. The Commission “shall examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies,” as stated in the bill’s text.

But this bill has a long history. It was first introduced in 1989 by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), who died in 2019. Conyers repeatedly introduced the same bill during his tenure in the House.

H.R.40 was again introduced by Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee this week, on the first full day of the 117th Congress. The bill now has 147 co-sponsors, all Democrats.

Any reparations act is expected to affect 4 million Africans and their descendants who were enslaved from 1619 to 1865. “In short, the commission aims to study the impact of slavery and continuing discrimination against African-Americans, resulting directly and indirectly from slavery to segregation to the desegregation process and the present day,” Jackson-Lee said.

Although the bill does not propose monetary reparations in the form of direct payments, Rep. Jackson-Lee said the Commission could “make recommendations concerning any form of apology and compensation to begin the long-delayed process of atonement for slavery.”

H.R.40 was the first bill introduced in this new Congressional session. Apparently, it is how the Biden Administration will begin its tenure. Undoubtedly, it will set the tone for the next 4 years. And it could very well be the first bill to cross Biden’s desk.


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