The U.S. House of Representatives along with the Maryland State House are calling for studies to find the best way to make reparations for African Americans.
A U.S. House judiciary committee reviewed on Wednesday legislation to form a national commission to examine repreparations for oppressive policies under Jim Crow.
“This was our life: the back of a beaten slave,” said Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas on Wednesday. Lee reintroduced the bill once championed by late Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.
The bill does not call for monetary compensation directly but instead for a study on how to make appropriate reparations.
“This commission will probe into the facts of the long-standing … disparities that slavery brought about in this country,” Lee said on Wednesday. “We still experience them today.”
The bill’s name, HB-40, is a reference to the 40 acres and mule promised to and never delivered to newly freed slaves.
The lasting impacts on the health, wealth and education of African Americans has never been officially addressed by the U.S. Congress.
“Other groups that have been marginalized in horrific ways, like the Jewish community, the Japanese American community, have all been compensated,” said Maryland Del. Wanika Fisher, D-Prince George's County, who is proposing a similar legislation for the descendants of those enslaved in Maryland.
A state commission would study compensation like free college tuition at Maryland schools, low home mortgages and business loans without collateral.
“We’re the state of Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass. I think that says a lot,” Fisher said. “And so, I think Maryland more than any other state should be looking at our accountability and our history.”