California Task Force Forces to Study Payment for Slavery


With the signature of Gov. Gavin Newsom, California on Wednesday became the first state government in the country to adopt a law to study and develop proposals for possible revaluation of the descendants of enslaved people and those affected by slavery.

Newsom said the bipartisan support for the new law and its passage is “proving a paradigm that we hope will continue to resonate throughout America.”

In a year of national protests against racial injustice, state lawmakers approved Assembly Bill 3121 to force the state to confront its racist history and systemic inequalities. Although California entered the Union as an “independent state” in 1850, slavery continued after the state’s constitution was repealed the previous year. Slavery was abolished in 1865 by the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution.

The new law creates a task force to recommend appropriate measures to the state legislature and determine who should be eligible to receive compensation, which it hopes will become a model in a country where slavery has been around for centuries. Movements to amend for the federal level have failed to gain traction.

Assemblyman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), author of AB 3121, said, “California has come to terms with many of its issues, but has not yet come to terms with its role in slavery.” Actually addressing the issues of justice and fairness in this country that we have to address. ”

The task force, consisting of nine members to be appointed by governors and legislative leaders, will conduct a comprehensive examination of slavery in California and the United States and the lasting consequences of discrimination with freed slaves and their descendants. The group is expected to consider the ways in which slavery has benefited private and public institutions and has led to permanent inequalities related to wealth, education, employment, health and disorganization.

The bill states that 4 million Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the US from 1619 to 1865, and the practice was constitutionally approved for more than 75 years.

California has a long history of allowing slavery and discrimination before it can attain state status.

According to the California Historical Society, the Sothers brought slaves to California in 1848 to work in gold mines during the gold rush. Although California banned slavery in its constitution in 1849, loopholes in its legal system allowed slavery and discrimination to continue against slaves before joining the union the following year.

The first Governor of California, in his inauguration speech, recommended the Legislature free the slaves from the state.

“, They were born here, and acquired rights in consequence, I should not recommend any measures to expel them,” Gov. Peter Burnett told the Legislature in late 1849. “They are no longer here, except in numbers compared to something that will be here; and the object is to keep them out.”

Federal fugitive slave laws compelled citizens and governments to help them return to those who survived slavery in the South. In 1852 California passed its fugitive slave law, stating that all slave people before or fleeing were brought to California because they were considered fugitives and the property of the slave owner from whom they fled or who fled Were brought there to work.

According to an article published in the Journal of Negro History in 1918, the law was interpreted to allow slaves to work and eventually return to the South with them. The slave owners also sold those they did not enslave. Want to pay for their return trip, or have charged them for their freedom.

The California Historical Society also notes that advertisements for the sale of enslaved people were printed in local newspapers.

“The law was not actually enforced in California and so people brought slaves with them to California,” Charles P. Professor Emeritus of African American Studies at UC Berkeley. Henry said.

By 1863, California also had laws prohibiting black people from testifying against whites in court.

Racial discrimination persisted in modern times with issues such as school segregation in the 1970s and the resettlement of divided cities, including Los Angeles. Only last year, the Sausalito Marin City School District received the state’s first desegregation order in 50 years.

For decades white homeowners prohibited black people from selling to black buyers under agreements in their neighborhood.

The California Legislature passed a law in 1963 to ban discrimination based on race in the sale or rental of public housing or apartments, but voters overturned it the following year.

“It was kicked out, so we had housing segregation, which definitely leads to school segregation,” Henry said. “This not only leads to the absence of living in better neighborhoods, but also better schools and all the implications that overcome such discrimination. We can go down the list in terms of criminal justice, etc. This history of California has been heavily documented by scholars throughout California and the nation. ”

Movements to pay reparations have long existed, but no state has approved such sweeping legislation to consider slavery and ways to amend for its effect.

The state of Florida paid more than $ 2 million in repurchases to survivors of the 1924 Rosewood Massacre, in which a white mob destroyed the black community and killed at least six people. Payments approved in the 1994 law included $ 150,000 for each of the nine survivors and a total of $ 500,000 for their descendants, some of whom were also eligible for scholarships to cover tuition and fees.

In 1988, Congress approved $ 20,000 to each survivor of Japanese American internment camps during World War II. With a total cost of $ 1.25 billion in the bill, approximately 62,000 former trainees and residents of the Aleutian Islands were relocated during the war and their community was destroyed.

Through a partnership with a private donor, Virginia created a college scholarship in 2004 for state residents who opposed Prince Edward County and other communities closed in the 1950s and public schools in opposition to the Public Landmark Supreme Court case, Brown v. Had lost access to education. Board of Education, which called school segregation unconstitutional.

California law states that state recertification at the federal level would not be considered a replacement for replacements that have failed to move forward for more than a century.

The first bill to provide pension to the first Congressmen which was enslaved in 1890 and failed to pass. Members of Congress have proposed, in every session since 1989 – to set up a commission to be used as a model for Weber’s bill.

Critics of California law argued that it is the federal government’s responsibility to provide revalidation, which Weber agrees with.

“I think it should start at the federal level, but will it?” Weber said. “The fact that it didn’t mean that I needed to stand here to cry for the next 40, 50 years until I started at the federal level.”

Weber said the California law intended the task force to prioritize potential reforms for African Americans who are “descendants of enslaved people or who were affected by slavery.”

The law has not conducted a type of reevaluation or determined that the state should determine who would be eligible for compensation, leaving those questions to the task force to study and recommend. To act on those recommendations, the Legislature would need to pass another bill to approve revaluation payments.

Weber said he expected the task force to consider forms of reforms beyond cash payments.

He cited the 1865 order by the Union to give “40 acres and a mule” to freed slaves – which scholars, as Henry Louis Gates Jr. pointed out, later reversed – as an opportunity to build wealth In, but more recent offering help on how to provide a down payment for a home and access to better education in other potential areas of consideration.

“When you start seeing the difference between poor whites and poor blacks, it’s just a very big money gap between those groups,” Weisz said. “So, hopefully, they will see what policies we implement, and they will have a list of policies they believe the Legislature might want to take up.”

The new law calls on the task force to educate the public about the history of slavery in the US and California and the discriminatory policies that followed.

Last year, Newsom apologized to Native Americans for their history of “violence, misrule and neglect”, including slavery and genocide, and correcting historical records about the state’s treatment of indigenous peoples and discussing possible rethinking Developed a Truth and Healing Council for.

While there are many different forms of possible reevaluation, Henry stated that there is a uniform consensus on the facts about the treatment of black people and that forgiveness would be a good start.

“I think this whole notion of truth and harmony needs to start here with some recognition of responsibility and accountability and as long as you have, you don’t really talk about any kind of meaningful Can do, ”he said.

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