Boston, a city entrenched in the history of the American Revolution, creates a task force to explore the city’s history of slavery and economic discrimination and to consider reparations for Black citizens.
We look back at the history of efforts in Boston to explore reparations, particularly through the lens of Sen. Bill Owens, the first Black member of the Massachusetts Senate. At the end of the 1980s, Owens, inspired by activism he had seen in Detroit, introduced a bill to pay reparations to Black descendants of enslaved people. That bill is credited as being a model for national legislation introduced by Rep. John Conyers in every session of the U.S. Congress since 1989 to create a national commission on reparations.
One of the biggest challenges for a local reparations effort is determining who should get repaid. Historically, the idea of reparations has been tied to the forsaken promise of 400,000 acres the U.S. government was going to give to formerly enslaved people due to the atrocities of slavery. However, the harms endured by Black people have not been confined to that period. We start the episode at Cape Coast Castle, a slave trading outpost on the coast of Ghana where enslaved people were first taken from the African continent and sold into the institution of slavery. We use this first point of harm to begin a discussion with a series of Black political thinkers about how the harms against Black people can begin to be addressed through reparations.
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More from 'What Is Owed?'
GBH's All Things Considered host Arun Rath speaks with Saraya Wintersmith, host of the new podcast "What is Owed?", about the city's history of slavery and how it looks to heal the inequalities it caused.