The gathering momentum for reparations

This timeline shows the gathering momentum for reparations to black Americans for slavery, Jim Crow and racial discrimination.  It ends in early 2023.

The listings are pulled from Reparations in the United States compiled by Allen J. Davis of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  I have not included Indian land claims or any reparations other than to black people.

1863: Over four days In July mobs of white New Yorkers terrorized Black people by roaming the streets from City Hall to Gramercy Park to past 40th Street, setting fire to buildings and killing people. The overall death toll is estimated at between over 100 and over 1,000. Immediately after the riots, the white merchants of New York combined forces to raise money to care for the injured, repair the damaged property, and support the legal and employment needs of the community’s Black people. The shopkeepers raised over $40,000, equivalent to $825,000 today.

1865: On January 12, in the midst of the Civil War, General William T. Sherman and U.S. secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton met with 20 Black leaders in Savannah Georgia. Four days later, General Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 stating that Black people would receive an army mule and not more than forty acres on coastal plains of South Carolina and Georgia. By June, roughly 40,000 Blacks had settled on four hundred thousand acres of land before Confederate landowners, aided by the new Johnson administration, started taking back “their” land.

1866Southern Homestead Act: “Ex-slaves were given 6 months to purchase land at reasonable rates without competition from white southerners and northern investors. But, owing to their destitution, few ex-slaves were able to take advantage of the program. The largest number that did were located in Florida, numbering little more than 3,000… The program failed.” (Wikipedia)

1878: In 1853, Henrietta Wood was a free black woman living and laboring as a domestic worker in Cincinnati when she was lured across the Ohio River and into the slave state of Kentucky by a white man named Zebulon Ward. Ward sold her to slave traders, who took her to Texas, where she remained enslaved through the Civil War. Wood eventually returned to Cincinnati, and in 1870 sued Ward for $20,000 in damages and lost wages. In 1878, an all-white jury decided in Wood’s favor, with Ward ordered to pay $2,500, perhaps the largest sum ever awarded by a court in the United States in restitution for slavery.

1969The Black Manifesto was launched in Detroit as one of the first calls for reparations in the modern era. Penned by James Forman, former SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) organizer, and released at the National Black Economic Development Conference, the manifesto demanded $500 million in reparations from predominantly White religious institutions for their role in perpetuating slavery. About $215,000 (other sources say $500,000) was raised from the Episcopalian and Methodist churches through rancorous deliberations that ultimately tore the coalition apart. The money was used to establish organizations such as a black-owned band, television networks, and the Black Economic Research Center.
1974: A $10 million out-of-court settlement was reached between the U.S. government and Tuskegee victims, black men who had been unwitting subjects of a study of untreated syphilis, and who did not receive available treatments.
1989: Congressman John Conyers, D-Michigan, introduced bill H.R. 3745, which aimed to create the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. The bill was introduced “[to] address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.” (Preamble)
1994: The state of Florida approved $2.1 million for the living survivors of a 1923 racial pogrom that resulted in multiple deaths and the decimation of the Black community in the town of Rosewood.

1999: A class action lawsuit by black farmers against the United States Department of Agriculture was settled by a consent decree, leading to nearly $1 billion in payments to plaintiffs. The lawsuit alleged systematic racial discrimination in the allocation of farm loans from 1981 to 1996. A further $1.2 billion was appropriated by Congress for the second part of the settlement.

2001: The Oklahoma legislature passed and Governor Keating signed a bill to pay reparations for the destruction of the Greenwood, Oklahoma, community in 1921 in the form of low-income student scholarships in Tulsa; an economic development authority for Greenwood; a memorial; and the awarding of medals to the 118 known living survivors of the destruction of Greenwood.

2002: Parties in the case of Ayres v. Fordice, a lawsuit first brought in 1975, agree on a settlement of $503 million. The lawsuit alleged that the state of Mississippi had systematically underfunded or otherwise neglected its Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) as compared with other post-secondary institutions, and essentially creating a system of segregation based on race. The settlement money would be used for improving academic programs and for capital investments.

2005: “Virginia, five decades after ignoring Prince Edward County and other locales that shut down their public schools in support of segregation, is making a rare effort to confront its racist past, in effect apologizing and offering reparations in the form of scholarships. With a $1 million donation from the billionaire media investor John Kluge and a matching amount from the state, Virginia is providing up to $5,500 to any state resident who was denied a proper education when public schools shut down. So far, more than 80 students have been approved for the scholarships and the numbers are expected to rise. Several thousand are potentially eligible.” (NYTimes)

2005: Banking corporation JPMorgan Chase issues an apology for their historical ties to the slave trade. The corporation set up a $5 million scholarship fund for black students to attend college. The scholarship program, called Smart Start Louisiana, was likened to reparations by several commentators, including Rev. Jesse Jackson.

2014: The state of North Carolina set aside $10 million for reparations payments to living survivors of the state’s eugenics program, which forcibly sterilized approximately 7,600 people.

2015: The City of Chicago signed into law an ordinance granting cash payments, free college education, and a range of social services to 57 living survivors of police torture (Burge Reparations). Explicitly defined as reparations, which totaled $5.5 million, the ordinance includes a formal apology from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a mandate to teach the broader public about the torture through a memorial and public school curriculum.

2016: Georgetown University has acknowledged that the school has profited from the sale of slaves and has “reconciled” by naming two buildings after African Americans and offer preferred admission to any descendants of slaves who worked at the university.

2016: The state of Virginia, one of more than 30 states that practiced forced sterilizations, followed North Carolina’s lead and has since 2016 been awarding $25,000 to each survivor.

2019: Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, introduced bill S. 1083 (H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act) in the Senate that would provide for a commission to study and report on the impact of slavery and discrimination against Black Americans and deliver a verdict on different proposals for reparations. The bill “is a way of addressing head-on the persistence of racism, white supremacy, and implicit racial bias in our country. It will bring together the best minds to study the issue and propose solutions that will finally begin to right the economic scales of past harms and make sure we are a country where all dignity and humanity is affirmed.”

2019: “Students at Georgetown University voted to increase their tuition to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved Africans that the Jesuits who ran the school sold nearly two centuries ago to secure its future.” In a nonbinding student-led referendum, “the undergraduate student body voted to add a new fee of $27.20 per student per semester to their tuition bill, with the proceeds devoted to supporting education and health care programs in Louisiana and Maryland, where many of the 4,000 known living descendants of the 272 enslaved people now reside.”

2019: Catholic nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart introduced a scholarship fund to benefit African-American students at their school in Louisiana, along with a memorial to the 150 enslaved persons who labored to build the schools.

2019: The Virginia Theological Seminary has earmarked $1.7 million to pay reparations to descendants of African Americans who were enslaved to work on their campus. The first payments of $2,100, to 15 recipients, were distributed in February 2021.

2019: Princeton Theological Seminary announced a $27 million commitment for various initiatives to recognize how it benefited from black slavery. This is the largest monetary commitment by an educational institution.

2019: Georgetown University announced that it would raise about $400,000 a year to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved people who were sold to aid the college 200 years ago, and the funds will be used to support community projects. While students would be involved in the initiative, they would not be required to pay extra fees; the money would be raised through voluntary donations from alumni, faculty, students, and philanthropists.

2019: A convention of the Episcopal Diocese of New York voted to allocate $1.1 million to initiate a reparations program.

2019: The City Council of Evanston, Illinois, voted to allocate the first $10 million in tax revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana (which became legal in the state on January 1, 2020) to fund reparations initiatives that address the gaps in wealth and opportunity of black residents. “This week’s City Council vote appears to have made Evanston the first municipal government in the nation to create and fund its own reparations program.”  While Chicago created a program to compensate victims of police torture , the reparations were not primarily race-based.

2020: The Episcopal Diocese of Texas (whose first bishop, Alexander Gregg, was a slave holder) pledged $13 million for a racial justice project.

2020: The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reached an agreement with the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office to implement policies and procedures, and a $500,000 fund, to address diversity issues. The agreement follows an incident of racial discrimination towards black students visiting the museum in May 2019.

2020: The town of Asheville, North Carolina, voted to give reparations to its black residents, in the form of a public apology and investing in black communities.

2020: The “Fund for Reparations Now” was established to raise $150,000 for the descendants of the Elaine, Arkansas massacre in which at least 200 African Americans were killed. The fund is a collaborate effort amongst the Elaine Legacy Center, the National African American Reparations Commission, and the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Conference. As of December 2020, $50,000 has been contributed to the fund.

2021: Memorial Episcopal Church in Baltimore created a fund to spend $100,000 per year over the next five years, for community organizations to do “justice-centered work” to address historical racial inequalities. The church had been founded by slave owners in the 1860s.

2021: The Jesuit Conference of Priests pledged to raise $100 million for the descendants of enslaved people. This pledge is the largest monetary effort of the Roman Catholic Church to atone for its role in slavery. $15 million has already been deposited into a trust as of March 2021.

2021: The Maryland legislature passes a bill subsequent to the settlement of the lawsuit The Coalition for Equity and Excellence in Maryland Higher Education, et al. v. Maryland Higher Education Commission, et al., which alleged that the state failed to sufficiently desegregate its colleges and universities. The legislation provides for $577 million over 10 years to be used for various programs benefitting the state’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

2021: The commissioners of the county of Athens-Clarke, Georgia, pass a proclamation to extend an apology for an act in the 1960s whereby the Linnentown community of Black families was appropriated and destroyed to build dormitories for students of the University of Georgia. Two weeks later the commissioners voted in favor of a resolution to erect a memorial on the site, create a center to study slavery, and set aside funding for reparatory projects (based on the amount of intergenerational wealth lost due to the destruction of the Linnentown community).

2021: A Congressional House committee voted to recommend the advancement of bill H.R. 40 (Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act), which would provide for the creation of a commission to study slavery reparations. The bill was introduced by Sheila Jackson Lee, D-TX, and co-sponsored by 184 other House Democrats.

2021: The town council of Amherst, Massachusetts voted to establish a reparations fund that will begin with a $210,000 special appropriation and accept contributions from local organizations. The town also approved the establishment of the African Heritage Reparations Assembly to develop the reparations plan.

2021: The California legislature enacted a law requesting $7.5 million of the budget be put towards providing reparations to survivors of the state’s former eugenics law, by which over 20,000 institutionalized women were forcibly sterilized. (These reparations are not limited to black people.)

2021: St. Petersburg, Florida, city council approved the creation of a reparations program and the implementation of an equity officer in response to a study that identified structural racism in the state. The program will establish affordable housing, educational opportunities, and other means of economic development that would contribute to an equal environment for Black residents.

2022: Evanston, Illinois began paying reparations to Black residents under their Restorative Housing Program (see entry above in 2019). The 16 residents were chosen at random and receive $25,000 each for housing assistance.

2022: Harvard University published a report (Harvard & the Legacy of Slavery) detailing how the institution benefitted from the enslavement of Black people in the United States. The university has also pledged $100 million for a fund to continue researching its ties to slavery, and for programs of reconciliation and redress.

2022: The Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts voted to create a reparations fund to address “our legacy of wealth accumulated through the enslaved labor of Africans and Afro-Caribbeans.” The pool will consist of $3 million to create investment income, as well as further annual funding with a goal of $11.1 million. The Diocese has also created a Reparations Toolkit.

2022: Providence, Rhode Island mayor Jorge Elorza signed a $10 million budget for the Providence Municipal Reparations program, with funds coming from the American Rescue Plan. Black and Native American residents qualify automatically, and White residents may also apply as the funding decisions must be race-neutral.

2022: Arlington Community Church in Kensington, California, a predominantly white congregation of the United Church of Christ, established the Black Wealth Builders Fund to offer zero-interest loans to Black residents for a down payment on purchasing their first home. The fund is intended to rectify lower levels of ownership among Black residents due to historical redlining (mortgage discrimination).

2023: In 1924, land owned by the Bruce family in Manhattan Beach, California, was seized via eminent domain by the city, who wanted to build a park there. The Bruce family had already faced harassment from white residents, and the Ku Klux Klan had attempted to burn down the resort that sat on the property. In July 2022 the land was returned to the family’s descendants, who then sold it back to Los Angeles County for $20 million.


An Historical Timeline of Reparations Payments Made From 1783 through 2023 by the United States Government, States, Cities, Religious Institutions, Universities, Corporations and Communities by Allen J. Davis, Ed.D., of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.  Davis said that his list is probably incomplete and asked for additional information and examples.

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One Response to “The gathering momentum for reparations”

  1. Johanna connelly Says:

    REALLY appreciate this history and background! So much we never learned…


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