On Wednesday, a House panel approved legislation to create a commission to study the issue of paying reparations to the descendants of slaves.
According to CBS News, this will be the first time the House Judiciary Committee has acted on the legislation. However, the decision to make the commission was a close fight in itself. The vote to advance the measure to the full House was 25-17 following a longstanding debate that reportedly carried on into the night.
Nevertheless, the bill’s sponsor, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, told CBS that she is hopeful the full House will be able to vote on it this summer.
If it passes, the commission will look into slavery and discrimination in the United States from 1619 to the present day. After that, the commission would decide how the U.S. would tell Americans about its findings and then move forward with creating a plan for a formal apology and how compensation would be awarded to the Black American community.
The bill, titled H.R. 40, was first introduced by late Representative John Conyers, D-Mich., in 1989. CBS reports the 40 referred to the government’s lie when it promised to give freed enslaved Black people 40 acres and a mule.
“This legislation is long overdue,” said Representative Jerry Nadler, the Democratic chairman of the committee. “H.R. 40 is intended to begin a national conversation about how to confront the brutal mistreatment of African Americans during chattel slavery, Jim Crow segregation and the enduring structural racism that remains endemic to our society today.”