Boston, MA – February 1, 2024 – What could reparations look like in America’s leading cities? What Is Owed?, a new podcast announced today from GBH News and PRX will unpack the history, tensions, precedents, and current movement that surround reparations, starting in Boston, which is America’s ‘cradle of liberty,’ and the capital of the first state to legalize slavery.
Hosted by GBH News political reporter Saraya Wintersmith, the seven-part limited series premieres on February 15, one year after Boston Mayor Michelle Wu appointed an official Reparations Task Force to research the impact of 400 years of slavery and economic exclusion on the city, and to issue recommendations to address the legacy of harm to its Black residents. The podcast will explore a variety of reparations frameworks.
Featured guests will add their expertise and perspectives alongside Wintersmith. Among the voices joining What Is Owed? are Wellesley College historian and author Kellie Carter Jackson, author and scholar Dr. Ibram X. Kendi, NAACP Boston Branch president Tanisha Sullivan, and Boston city councilor at-large Julia Mejia.
“What Is Owed? is a cornerstone of GBH’s ongoing Reckoning +Repair initiative, a Foundation-wide exploration of America’s history of racial exclusion and current struggle to find a way forward through reparations for slavery,” said Pam Johnston, general manager of GBH News. “Saraya’s impactful reporting and commitment to centering Black voices in the conversation around reparations illustrate how thoughtful storytelling can engage audiences around challenging, but important topics.”
In Boston, the debate around reparations is layered in history. It was here that slavery was first legalized in the American colonies; here that founders of American independence are buried alongside the Black people they enslaved; here that became a hotbed of abolition; and here that legislation was introduced in the 1980s that became the model of a national bill calling for reparations. This bill remains on the agenda in the U.S. Congress.
The podcast follows the reparations conversation from Boston City Hall, where internal tensions stall progress from the Boston Reparations Task Force, to Ghana, where enslaved people were first taken from the African continent, to Austria, which implemented one of the largest reparations programs in history to repay survivors of the Nazi regime following World War II, to Evanston, Illinois, the first U.S. city to enact reparations legislation, and back to Boston for a conversation around thinking about addressing harm to Black residents with forms of repair beyond cash payments.
“While cities around the world are holding space for conversation around reparations, Boston sits at a unique crossroad in this debate. We look forward to bringing diverse perspectives to the discourse around how a city so historically entrenched in the establishment of slavery can set up a system to close the gaps set in place centuries ago,” said GBH News Executive Editor Lee Hill. “Listeners will hear from a dynamic roster of journalists, scholars, community leaders, and politicians around the hopes and complexities that surround reparations.”
What Is Owed? is a co-production of GBH News and PRX and is distributed by PRX, one of the world's top podcast publishers and public radio distributors. What Is Owed? is available free on-demand across all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and Spotify, as well as at the GBH News website and the GBH News YouTube Channel. After the first episode premieres Feb. 15, subsequent episodes will be released weekly on Thursday mornings.
What Is Owed? follows the release of The Big Dig from GBH News and PRX, the highly acclaimed podcast of the momentous infrastructure project with lasting implications.
GBH is the leading multiplatform creator for public media in America. As the largest producer of content for PBS and partner to NPR and PRX, GBH delivers compelling experiences, stories and information to audiences wherever they are. Headquartered in Boston, GBH has been recognized with hundreds of the nation’s premier broadcast, digital and journalism awards. Find more information at gbh.org.
Celebrating more than 20 years as a nonprofit public media company, PRX works in partnership with leading independent creators, organizations, and stations to bring meaningful audio storytelling into millions of listeners' lives. PRX is one of the world’s top podcast publishers, public radio distributors, and audio producers, serving as an engine of innovation for public media and podcasting to help shape a vibrant future for creative and journalistic audio. Shows across PRX’s portfolio of broadcast productions, podcast partners, and its Radiotopia podcast network have received recognition from the Peabody Awards, the Tribeca Festival, the International Documentary Association, and more, including in 2022 when Futuro Media and PRX won a Pulitzer Prize. Visit PRX.org for more.