Black History: Special Delivery!!
According to the National Archives and Records Administration, in 1862, President Lincoln paid reparations to 930 slaveowners covering 2,989 enslaved black people. The purpose of the payments was to secure the loyalty of DC slaveholders to the Union by compensating for their loss in income when President Lincoln ended slavery in Washington, DC. Up to $300 in payments was paid to slaveholders for each slave. A $300 payment in 1862 would be equivalent to $7,662 per enslaved person today. In addition, voluntary colonization of the formerly enslaved to locations outside of the U.S. was offered with payments of up to $100 each for those opting to emigrate outside of the U.S.
The estimates on a total dollar value of reparations for African American descendants have been from $17 billion to as much as $5 trillion only. Many advocates for reparations suggest that the cost of reparations payments should be paid by three sources: U.S. government, private companies, and wealthy individuals whose wealth can be traced back to the enslavement of black people. In addition to monetary payments, some advocates for reparations also suggest other benefits should be awarded to descendants of the enslaved as well such as land and access to other special government programs and benefits. A slave owner from Baltimore was hired to appraise the value of slaves. Some slave owners did not want to free their slaves and did not apply for payments. Many enslaved individuals feared that would be forced to return to African against their will.
Opponents of reparations take the perspective that all of the enslaved are now dead and that no white person alive today owned slaves. They also suggest that it would be difficult for blacks to prove that they are the descendants of slaves. In 1989, Democratic Rep. John Conyers was the first to introduce bill HR 40 proposing that a commission to study reparations. He continued to introduce the bill until he left office in 2017. It was never passed. Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson is now sponsoring the bill in congress.
Below is an informative video from the National Archives which details of the District of Columbia Emancipation Act: