Wednesday is June 19th – a day known as Juneteenth by many as it celebrates the end of slavery in America.
For the first time in more than 10 years, Congress talked about payment, or reparations, to the descendants of African slaves.
“A national reparations policy is a moral, democratic and economic imperative,” said actor, producer and activist Danny Glover.
As Blank Panthers stood in silence outside, Glover joined a panel in front of a House committee to remember his roots. He’s the great-grandson of a former slave who was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation.
“Slavery was a crime against humanity – one which whose impacts we as a society continue to grapple with today,” said Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tennessee)
Cohen and his colleagues revived a conversation that hasn’t happened in Congress in more than a decade – payments, or reparations for descendants of African slaves.
“It is only this group,” U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said.
The Texas congresswoman is sponsoring a resolution, which was first introduced three decades ago, to form a commission to get the process going.
Outside Wednesday’s hearing, huge crowds lined the walls to push it forward.
“If we want the America that we talk about, this is the first step,” Derrick Williams, an American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) Movement member from Virginia said.
Some see the discussion as purely political.
Project 21, a black leadership network, calls reparations a sham that hurts race relations. And on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also voiced his opposition.
“We’re always a work in progress in this country, but no one currently alive was responsible for that,” Sen. McConnell (R-Senate Majority Leader)
Members of the panel fired back.
“This rebuttal proffers a strange theory of governance that American accounts are somehow bound by the lifetime of its generations,” said Ta-Nehisi Coates, Distinguished Writer in Residence, Arthur J. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University.
The country has paid other debts— including reparations to Japanese Americans after they were held in internment camps during world war two.
Now, these Americans argue it’s their turn.