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A series of essays in the Episcopal Church


A Commission to Study Reparation for Slavery

A Commission to Study Reparation for Slavery

Passed by the Episcopal Urban Caucus, February 25, 2005

 

Resolved, that the Episcopal Urban Caucus, meeting in Newark, New Jersey, February 25, 2005, endorses a federal Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans, which proposal is embodied in Congressman John Conyers' bill, designated HR 40 since its initial introduction in 1989; and be it further

 

Resolved, that this meeting of the Episcopal Urban Caucus calls on the General Convention of the Episcopal Church meeting in June, 2006, and all of the dioceses of the Episcopal Church meeting in convention over the next year to carefully examine the issues of slavery and its legacy and how the Church can join in the effort for reconciliation and reparation; and be it further

 

Resolved, that all members of the Episcopal Urban Caucus be urged to send a copy of this resolution to their Senators and Congress persons.

 

Explanation

 

Congressman Conyers says that his bill is designed to stimulate a national discussion while minimizing polarization.  His proposal is for the federal government to undertake an official study of the impact of slavery on the social, political and economic life of our nation.

 

Over four million Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and its territories from 1619 to 1865.  It is uncontested that African slaves were not compensated for their labor. More unclear however, is what effects this condition has had on African-Americans and on our nation from the time of emancipation through today.

 

The number of the bill, HR 40, was chosen as a symbol of the forty acres and a mule that the United States initially promised freed slaves. This unfulfilled promise and the serious devastation that slavery had on African-American lives has never been officially acknowledged by the United States Government.

 

HR 40 does four things:

 

  1. It acknowledges the fundamental injustice and inhumanity of slavery
  2. It establishes a commission to study slavery and the subsequent racial and economic discrimination against freed slaves;
  3. It studies the impact of those forces on today's living African Americans
  4. The commission would then make recommendations to Congress on appropriate remedies to redress the harm inflicted on living African Americans.

 

The commission established would also shed light on the capture and procurement of slaves, the transport and sale of slaves, the treatment of slaves in the colonies and in the United States.  It would examine the extent to which Federal and State governments in the U.S. supported the institution of slavery and examine federal and state laws that discriminated against freed African slaves from the end of the Civil War to the present.

 

Also to be addressed by the commission would be issues such as the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery, whether an apology is owed, whether compensation is warranted and, if so, in what form and who should eligible would also be delved into.

 

The concept of reparations was recently supported by the General Convention.  Resolution D008 (1994), states that: "the 71st General Convention joins the effort to secure reparation from the government of Japan for surviving victims and the families of Korean and other women exploited during World War II. It urges the UN to create a special tribunal to investigate the gross violation of these women's human rights"

 

If our Church can call for an investigation of the appropriateness of reparation for a human rights violation in which it played no part, it is even more important that it call for the thorough study of the appropriateness of such reparation for the perpetuating of an institution to which the Episcopal Church contributed and from which it benefited.


You are welcome to submit your essays for consideration for this series. Send them to lcrew@newark.rutgers.edu Identify yourself by name, snail address, parish, and other connections to the Episcopal Church. Please encourage others to do the same.

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