Albany to study impact of slavery in New York
ALBANY, N.Y. Legislators rolled out a bill Tuesday to create a state commission on the impact of slavery on New York and what kind of reparations should be made to the descendants of freed slaves.
“We’re always being studied,” said one of the bill’s sponsors, Assembly member Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn). “Every time I turn around we’re being studied… so here’s one, how about studying the history of slavery in New York state.”
“Most people believe that slavery was a southern thing, it was mostly southern states,” he said, but most do not know New York City had more slaves than any city in the U.S. beside Charleston, S.C.
The bill calls for a one-year study of all historical aspects of slavery in New York and its residual impact today. Five of the 14 members of the commission would be appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, with the rest picked by The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, the December 12th Movement, and by Dr. Ron Daniels of the Institute of the Black World. The three groups are black cultural and nationalist groups.
Barron said the bill is new and he decided to put it out as a relatively new member of the Legislature. Barron is a longtime activist in New York City. In Albany, he once got into a shouting match with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and at a Black and Puerto Rican Caucus conference; in the Assembly, he was one of only a few legislators to vote against electing Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver before he was indicted and later convicted and stripped of his office.
The bill says during the colonial period slaves accounted for 20 percent of the state population, and 40 percent of households in the state owned slaves. “These slaves were an integral part of the population which settled and developed what he now know as New York,” starting with the arrival of the first slaves in New Amsterdam in the late 1620s, the bill says.
“There are crimes against humanity and crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations … Certain crimes have no statute of limitations and slavery is one of those crimes,” said Sen. James Sanders Jr. (D-Queens), the Senate sponsor of the measure.
“To look at me you will know someone survived at the bottom of a ship, shackled to a stranger, someone with whom he or she could not speak because the languages were not the same,” said Assembly Deputy Speaker Earlene Hooper (D-Nassau County). “Someone survived. We are the strongest people on the face of the earth to be able to survive a crossing of that type.”
Assembly member Victor Pichardo (D-Bronx) said the repercussions of slavery are still seen in New York in housing and other areas. “To this day there are clauses in specific deeds in Long Island and in upstate New York where folks of color cannot buy homes,” he said. “This exists and to this day we are dealing with the idea and the suppression, from the highest levels of government, of voter suppression and there have been voter I.D. laws across the nation.”
He said a study commission would “create a true remedy to the crimes and the sins that this country has committed, particularly to folks of African descent … it’s not about financial justice, it is about justice overall. It’s about receiving what is due to our communities and for the United States to actually come to grips with and recognize the horrors of slavery and how it has damaged communities and families to this day.”
Legislators said that reparations have been paid to the Jewish victims of the Nazis, and to the families of Japanese-Americans put into internment camps during World War II. Descendants of freed slaves should also be compensated.
The bill establishes “the Commission to Study Reparations for African-Americans and to Recommend Remedies,” and part of its charge would be to appropriate money for compensation.
Slavery was well established in New York for 200 years and the last slave was not freed until 1827, after a gradual freeing of slave beginning in 1799. Slavery was widespread on Long Island, the Hudson Valley and the Mohawk Valley.
New York City had an active slave market for most of the 18th century, and the state was one of the first colonies to pass a law proscribing the death penalty for a slave who murdered or tried to kill his or her master. Read more
Source: Oneida Daily Dispatch (USA)