For more than 200 years, state-sanctioned slavery existed in what has now become the United States. According to some publications, ten of America’s first 12 presidents enslaved black people. One even engaged in slave trading from the Oval Office.
These enslaved people were instrumental in helping to build America and also the foundation of the 18th and 19th century economies. Since the end of slavery, several attempts have been made to help the descendants of enslaved Black people and people of African descent.
U.S. Rep. Jamaal Bowman wants to hold the federal government accountable for the legacy of slavery and wants a $14 trillion reparations program to be created to assist the descendants of enslaved people.
The bill that seeks $14 trillion in slavery reparations for Black Americans was introduced in 2023 and it comes 35 years after a bill to set up a federal commission to study reparations was first introduced. That bill remains pending and was reintroduced this year as well, according to lohud.
The bill, HR 414, seeks to provide free college education at the nation’s 107 Historically Black Colleges and Universities, funding for the National Publishers Association and National Association of Black Broadcasters, and restoration of voting rights for persons currently or previously incarcerated.
“I think people incarcerated should be able to vote,” Bowman, who represents New York City’s northern suburbs, said of the bill he is co-sponsoring. “And I definitely think that when they come out, they should automatically be enfranchised.”
There are an estimated 42 million African Americans in the United States which makes up 12 percent of the population, as per the 2020 census. According to Bowman, when divided evenly, each person is likely to get $333,000 which could be paid over a period of 10 years.
“Who says the $14 trillion needs to be paid out in one shot,” said Bowman. “It might be possible for it to be paid out over 5 or 10 or 20 years. You could take that $333,000 and break it up into monthly checks over X amount of time. There are creative ways to do the right thing and do what needs to be done.”
Bowman wants a comprehensive approach to reparations due to the yawning inequities that America was built on including “housing, mass incarceration, higher education, and wealth inequality,” according to BET.com.
“There were 246 years of free labor that produced trillions or hundreds of trillions of dollars for the U.S. economy,” said Bowman. “The economy wouldn’t exist in the way it does today if slavery hadn’t built it.”