Posted on June 19, 2019

Sheila Jackson Lee’s Opening Statement on Reparations

C-SPAN, June 19, 2019


Just a sense of what we face. Let me first of all say the number of Africans who died in the new passage, over 2 million. Number of enslaved who died during slavery first and second generation over 2.5 million. The slave trade was the largest movement of people in history between 10 and 15 million Africans were forcibly transported across the Atlantic between 1500 and 1900. At least 2 million Africans died in the infamous passage. Another 15 to 30% died during the march or confinement along the coast altogether for every 100 slaves that reached the new world, another 40 died in Africa or doing the middle passage.

Who has a history like that? Reparations and the idea of this commission should be welcome by all Americans. For we are not asking one American to give one payment. What we’re saying is it’s the only way that slavery ended was a governmental action of the 13th Amendment.

Governmental action. Reconstruction failed after 12 years. Because it was imploded by governmental people. And after reconstruction a rain of terror that had never been seen. The hanging fruit, the lynching, the oppression of voting, the tearing away of land, and the amazing concept of the continuing de facto impact of slavery today. Million African-Americans are incarcerated. That’s a continuing impact. The black employment rate is 6.6% in spite of what has been said currently. More than double the national unemployment rate. 31% of black children live in poverty compared to 11% of white children. National average is 18% would suggest the percentage of black children living in poverty is more than 150%. Even in spite of the glorious overcoming of the talent that is part of our community. The scraping together of making sure our children receive education. The putting together something out of nothing. We still have been impacted.

[Editor’s Note: The entire opening statement is almost 10 minutes long and occurs between 23:58 and 33:27.]