St. Paul, Minnesota To Form Reparations Commission For Descendants Of Slaves

St. Paul, Minnesota To Form Reparations Commission For Descendants Of Slaves

St. Paul, Minnesota To Form Reparations Commission For Descendants Of Slaves

The reparations movement got another boost when the city of St. Paul, Minnesota, voted this week to form a commission to study reparations for Black residents whose ancestors were slaves.

St. Paul has officially apologized for its role in institutional racism. On Jan. 20, the city council voted 7-0 to form the St. Paul Recovery Act Community Reparations Commission in an effort to promote racial healing. The council also apologized for slavery at Fort Snelling and the destruction in the 1950s of St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood — a thriving center of the Black community in the Twin Cities.

Dred Scott was enslaved at Fort Snelling. Scott’s fight for freedom resulted in a U.S. Supreme Court case that was the backdrop for the Civil War, CBS Local Minnesota reported. Scott unsuccessfully sued for his freedom and that of his wife, Harriet Robinson Scott, and their two daughters in the U.S. Supreme Court Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857, popularly known as the “Dred Scott decision.”

St. Paul City Council Member Jane Prince, the resolution’s lead sponsor, partnered with Trahern Crews, co-chairman of the U.S. Green Party and who heads up its national reparations working group, The Star Tribune reported.

“One of the first things we’re doing by way of this resolution is apologizing for American slavery, and the way in which our state and city have benefited from it,” Prince told CBS.

She added, that our country owes a debt “to African American slavery because it essentially propelled us to being an economic powerhouse as a brand-new country. Free labor made our commerce and industry very successful.”

Every institution that has systematically enforced, sanctioned or profited from the evil of slavery must participate fully in this work, St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said.

“I think once people start acknowledging, ‘OK, we did something wrong,’ the next step is to start repairing the wrong,” Crews said. “We’re also calling on institutions who are in St. Paul to address racism, and institutional racism within their organizations.”

“Repairing the wrong” is a major tenet of the reparations movement. Amanda Gorman, the nation’s first-ever youth poet laureate, gave a nod to reparations in her poem, “The Hill We Climb,” which she recited at the inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. A passage in the poem reads, ” … being American is more than a pride we inherit, it’s the past we step into and how we repair it…”

The move toward reparations, Crews said, would help close the wealth gap. “Whites still have 90 percent of the wealth and Blacks only have 2.6 percent of the wealth in America,” said Crews, who also co-chairs a community reparations steering committee.

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St. Paul joins a growing number of cities that have launched reparations commissions. Earlier this week, Portland launched a reparations study commission. Others include Asheville, N.C., and Evanston, Ill. California recently became the first state to launch a reparations commission. 

St. Paul has a population of 308,000 people, of which about 16 percent is Black, according to 2019 U.S. Census data.