Last Updated on February 8, 2023
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu announced the members of the city’s Reparations Task Force at the Museum of African American History during a press conference on Tuesday. The task force will study the impact of slavery on Boston and eventually come out with a plan to pay cash reparations to black citizens. Other leftist states and cities — including California — have advanced plans to pay reparations after forming similar task forces.
Mayor Wu, a Democrat, said the program will help to build a better Boston for everyone. “This conversation has been generations in the making, and we are appointing a multigenerational task force to reflect the full breadth of that history and struggle,” Wu said. “We will be another step closer to reconciling our complicated history with our vision for a more connected, more inclusive, more equitable Boston for all of us.”
Boston’s task force will propose reparation payments for those who can document that they are descendants of slaves. Other municipalities have debated on paying reparations to all black citizens regardless of whether they descend from slaves, though Boston has laid out that requirement.
The announcement comes two months after the Boston City Council unanimously agreed to create the reparations committee, The Boston Globe reported. Boston’s reparations task force will study “Boston’s participation in slavery,” and asses “the city’s attempts to repair the harm done by this practice; and then making recommendations on what forms repair could take.”
Five commission members were required to be “descendants of American freedmen, or Africans enslaved in the United States.”
The task force is hoping to complete its work and come up with a payment plan by 2024.
“We want to make sure that we’re grounded in the community,” Joseph D. Feaster Jr., a former Boston NAACP president and member of the commission. “We want to be transparent, we want to be inclusive, and we want to be thorough, and we want to be intentional.”
In announcing the task force last June, Boston — which was the epicenter of the abolition movement prior to the American Civil War — issued a formal apology for slavery and “the death, misery, and deprivation that this practice caused.”
The city has not laid out a concrete plan detailing how exactly reparations will be paid for. In 2021, Cambridge passed policy orders to look into a pilot reparations program, which would funnel an undetermined amount of cannabis tax revenue to Black residents as repair for enslavement, as well as a restitution program for residents impacted by the “war on drugs,” the Boston Globe reported.
On the state level, state Senator Liz Miranda a Democrat from Boston, filed legislation that would create a Massachusetts reparations study commission, and that would establish a reparations fund using a portion of excise taxes imposed on “specified applicable educational institutions.”