The bill, which was first produced over three decades ago, was passed with a majority of 25-17. It now faces the full House, and if it is passed, will move to the Senate.
It intends to establish a 13-person commission to study the lasting impacts of slavery and ongoing racial discrimination throughout the country’s history, in order to send its recommendations on necessary remedies, including reparations to the descendants of enslaved people.
The bill was passed after a long discussion over the issue last year during the Black Lives Matter protest and 2020 election campaign trail, as it garnered support from several other Democrats, including President Biden who made racial inequality his focus in his domestic agenda.
“Next week’s markup of HR 40 [the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act] by the Judiciary Committee is a major step toward the creation of a long-overdue national commission to study and develop reparation proposals,” representative Sheila Jackson Lee, who presented the legislation to the House committee said in a statement.
“Through this legislation, we will finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions.”
“Our nation continues to struggle with the legacy of the anti-Black racism that undergirded slavery and Jim Crow,” Congressman Steve Cohen said. “Enacting HR 40 would create a study that may propose programmes for finding effective long-term solutions for wealth creation, education, fair housing and access to health care that continue to plague the Black community.”
“It is hoped this study will help explain to the American people the promises made to African Americans after the Civil War and the lingering effects of not keeping those promises,” he said.
The debate over reparations is decades-old and the bill faces an uncertain future ahead. However, this is the first time it has been voted forward by a committee since it was first introduced in 1989 by the then-representative John Conyers Jr, a Democrat from Michigan.