SACRAMENTO (KPIX) - The State of California launched its first-in-the-nation task force Tuesday, examining the possibility of reparations for the history of slavery and discrimination against African-Americans.
"As our country reckons with our painful legacy of racial injustice, California is again poised to lead the way," Gov. Gavin Newsom said at the outset of the meeting.
The nine-member task force will spend the next two years studying the history and legacy of slavery in California. They will recommend a set of possible remedies for those historical wrongs and prepare a final report for state lawmakers.
"We have given more than has ever been given to us. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated this country has written a promissory note to African-Americans that continues to come back marked "Insufficient Funds," says State Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena).
California lacks the South's long history of slavery. Historians say enslaved African-Americans were brought to California during the Gold Rush and in the years after. However, California was officially admitted to the Union as a free state with slavery outlawed in its state constitution.
"There were groups of enslaved brought into the state. They were essentially freed when the territory achieved statehood. But that doesn't mean that they were practically freed," says San Jose State history professor Libra Hilde.
The task force has not determined exactly who would be eligible for reparations and how much, if any, money will be budgeted for their proposals.
"I'm hopeful that the American people will have a heart and will learn from the history of America and the struggles of the descendants of the people who were brought here as captives," says Rev. Jeff Moore, president of the Silicon Valley Chapter of the NAACP.