Eleven US mayors — from Los Angeles to tiny Tullahassee, Oklahoma — have pledged to pay reparations for slavery to a small group of black residents in their cities, saying their aim is to set an example for the federal government on how a nationwide program could work.
The mayors had no details on how much it would cost, who would pay for it or how people would be chosen.
All of those details would be worked out with the help of local commissions comprised of representatives from black-led organizations set up to advise the mayor of each city.
However, the mayors said they are committed to paying reparations instead of just talking about them.
“Black Americans don’t need another study that sits on a shelf,” said St Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones, the city’s first black female mayor and a member of the group. “We need decisive action to address the racial wealth gap holding communities back across our country.”
The effort comes as Juneteenth, which marks the end of slavery in the US, has become a federal holiday. US President Joe Biden signed a bill on Thursday that was passed by the US Congress to set aside Juneteenth, or June 19, as a holiday.
Slavery officially ended in the US in 1865 with the adoption of the 13th amendment to the US constitution.
However, it has never passed.
Friday’s announcement marks the largest city-led effort at paying reparations to date, but it is not the first. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors in March voted to appoint a 15-member African American Reparations Advisory Committee.
The group of mayors, dubbed Mayors Organized for Reparations and Equity, is led by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.
Their stated goal is for these reparations programs to “serve as high-profile demonstrations for how the country can more quickly move from conversation to action on reparations for Black Americans,” according to the group’s Web site.
“Let me be clear: Cities will never have the funds to pay for reparations on our own,” Garcetti told a news conference on Friday to announce the group. “When we have the laboratories of cities show that there is much more to embrace than to fear, we know that we can inspire national action as well.”
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