Boston’s Reparations Task Force to study lingering impact of slavery and ‘repair harm’

A public apology for Boston's participation in the trans-Atlantic slave trade was made in June 2022, and the City Council unanimously decided to establish a panel to develop reparations suggestions.

Boston’s newly formed Reparations Task Force will study the lingering impact of slavery to “repair harm” done to the city’s communities of color.

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Tuesday the panel’s aims will be “to assess what actions we as a city have taken and consider what actions we can take moving forward to acknowledge truth, foster reconciliation, repair harm, and restore and strengthen our communities,” reported.

Attorney Joseph Feaster, Jr., task force chair and former president of the NAACP’s Boston chapter, said the group will determine the “amount of debt” rather than outline the procedures or deadlines for reparations payments. He noted that the goal is to “make people understand historically” what introduced the need for discussions on reparations,” according to NBC News.

The Boston City Council convenes on Dec. 14, 2022, at Boston City Hall, where they voted to form a task force to study how the city can provide reparations and other forms of atonement to Black Bostonians for the city’s role in slavery and its legacy of inequality. (Photo: Steven Senne/AP)

The task force consists of 10 members, a group made up of community activists, scholars, students and artists.

This week’s news comes after a public apology for Boston’s participation in the trans-Atlantic slave trade was made in June 2022, and the City Council unanimously decided in December to establish a panel to develop reparations suggestions.

“Today marks a moment in time where the city of Boston can serve to be a national model, said Carrie Mays, a student activist appointed to the task force, “where we turn our resilience into resolution, our pain into power, and our past into a pathway to heal the future.”

Slavery was widespread in colonial Boston, according to a Harvard Ph.D. student’s analysis released on Monday, featuring evidence that at least 58 African and Indigenous people were enslaved by white members of the First Church in Roxbury between 1631 and 1775, noted

The task force measure indicates the committee will suggest how Boston may eliminate laws that discriminate against its Black inhabitants. In a process anticipated to take 18 months, they will also provide recommendations on how the city should formally apologize to Bostonians for the “perpetration of gross human rights violations and crimes against humanity on African slaves and their descendants.”

“We are looking forward to determining recommendations for how we reckon with Boston’s past,” Feaster said in a statement, reported, “while charting a path forward for Black people whose ancestors labored without compensation and who were promised the 40 acres and a mule they never received.”

According to NBC, a 2015 analysis showed that Black households in Boston had a median net worth of $8 compared to white households’ nearly $250,000 due to discriminatory city laws and practices that created hurdles for nonwhite groups’ wealth-building opportunities, such as homeownership.

Wu referenced the “brutal practice of enslavement” and discriminatory practices such as redlining, the busing crisis and exclusion from city contracts, which she asserts date back 400 years.

“Our administration remains committed to tackling long-standing racial inequities,” Wu said this week at Boston’s historic African Meeting House, the oldest standing Black church in the nation, NBC reported. “…This task force is the next step in our commitment as a city to advance racial justice and build a Boston for everyone.”

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