Congressman Cohen Applauds Advance of H.R. 40, Creating a Commission to Study Reparations for African Americans

April 14, 2021
Press Release
Markup of legislation first introduced in 1989 will go to the floor

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), the Chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, today applauded the Judiciary Committee vote sending H.R. 40, legislation to create a commission to study reparations for African Americans, to the House floor. This historic development follows Chairman Cohen’s presiding at a February 17 hearing on the measure first proposed more than 30 years ago by the late Congressman John Conyers of Michigan. Congressman Cohen noted that the current measure was introduced by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and that he has been a proud cosponsor of this measure since he first came to Congress in 2007. Congressman Cohen encouraged members of the Party of Lincoln to follow through with a 21st Century version of General Sherman’s promise to provide “40 acres and a mule” to the people freed from slavery by the Civil War.

In his statement at the markup, Congressman Cohen said:

“H.R. 40 would create a commission to study the history of slavery in America; the role of the federal and state governments in supporting slavery and racial discrimination; other forms of discrimination against the descendants of slaves; and the lingering effects of slavery on African Americans.  The commission would also make recommendations as to appropriate ways to educate the American public about its findings and appropriate remedies in light of its findings.

“An honest reckoning with the federal government’s role in protecting the institution of slavery has been a leading priority of my Congressional career. 

“Back in 2007, less than two months into my tenure as a Member of Congress, I introduced H. Res. 194, an apology by the House of Representatives for its role in perpetuating both slavery and its noxious offspring, Jim Crow.  The House ultimately passed this resolution by voice vote…As Professor Charles Ogletree of Harvard Law School once noted, the concept of reparations does not mean payments to individuals, but, rather, a focus on the ‘poorest of the poor,’ including efforts ‘to address comprehensively the problems of those who have not substantially benefitted from integration or affirmative action.’ ” 

See the entire statement here.