Give all black students university scholarships, says California’s groundbreaking slavery taskforce

The groundbreaking report laid out how California, which has a population of 40 million people, actively participated in disenfranchisement of black citizens – including, leading the way in many areas.

The state supported slavery before it was technically abolished and oppressed black residents through discriminatory laws and practices in education, home ownership, employment and the courts.

Despite it being a “free” state, an estimated 1,500 enslaved African Americans lived in California in 1852, according to the report. The Ku Klux Klan flourished in California, with members holding positions in law enforcement and city government.

African American families were forced to live in segregated neighbourhoods that were more likely to be polluted.

The report also recommends compensating people who were forced out of their homes for construction projects such as parks and highways and general renewal, as happened to San Francisco’s historically black and once-thriving Fillmore neighbourhood.

The demographic make up nearly six per cent of California’s population yet they are overrepresented in jails and prisons. They were nearly nine per cent of people living below the poverty level and made up 30 per cent of people experiencing homelessness in 2019, according to state figures.

The specifics of how black people might prove their lineage has yet to be determined. Task force members heard testimony from genealogists who discussed various methods, including using census records, DNA and ancestry tests.

In cases for reparation, a claimant will have to produce a family tree, as well as presenting their own birth certificate, their parents, grandparents and so on, where possible.

“I hope that this report is used not only as an educational tool, but an organizing tool for people not only in California but across the U.S. to educate their communities,”  Kamilah Moore, a Los Angeles-based attorney and reparatory justice scholar who chairs California’s reparations task force. 

Ms Moore said nearly 80 per cent of California’s 2.6 million black residents would be eligible for reparations, based on calculations by an economist on the task force.