California Task Force Votes to Restrict Reparations to Descendants of Slavery

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People gathered outside the Minnesota capitol building to demand reparations after the death of George Floyd.
Source: Fibonacci Blue, “Juneteenth Reparations Rally to Demand Reparations from the United States Government,”, June 19, 2020, Creative Commons license

In a 5-4 vote on Mar. 29, 2022, the California reparations task force decided to limit reparations to African Americans who can trace their lineage to slavery, stating that those parameters were most likely to survive legal challenges. [1] [2] [3]

Free black people who came to the United States in the 19th century or earlier will also be eligible for reparations. The task force cited the trouble of tracing family history and the danger of being captured and enslaved as reasons for their inclusion. [1] [2] [3]

The two-year reparations task force, the first state group in the country, was created in 2020 when Governor Gavin Newson signed legislation for the group to study slavery and its harms, and to educate the public. Almost all of the task force members can trace their lineage to enslaved people. [1] [2] [3]

Black people who cannot trace their ancestry to slavery were considered for inclusion due to systemic racism, but were ultimately excluded. California is home to about 2.6 million African Americans. [1] [2] [3]

The task force is about a year into its work, but had not created a compensation plan yet, which could include a range of solutions: “free college, assistance buying homes and launching businesses, and grants to churches and community organizations.” A final proposal from the task force is due in June 2023. [1]

While California is the only state to have taken up the issue of reparations, some cities are doing so. Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago made reparations available to African American residents in 2021. Providence, Rhode Island, announced a city commission in Feb. 2022, and Boston, Massachusetts is considering a commission. [1] [4]

At the national level, federal legislation has been proposed (namely HR 40), supported by 363 groups in the Why We Can’t Wait Coalition. Meanwhile Japanese and Jewish American groups support reparations for descendants of slavery, including the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, Japanese American Citizens League and Nikkei for Civil Rights and Redress. [4]

Discussion Questions

1. Watch a California reparations task force meeting and weigh in on the debate.

2. Should governments pay reparations to the descendants of slavery? Consider federal, state, and local governments. Explain your answer(s).

3. Should others be included in reparations? Consider African American who can’t trace their ancestry to slavery, Japanese Americans whose families were in internment camps, Native Americans, and others. Explain your answer(s).


1. Janie Har, “California Group Votes to Limit Reparations to Slave Descendants,”, Mar. 30, 2022

2. Soumya Karlamangla, “California Task Force Votes to Offer Reparations Only to Descendants of Enslaved People,”, Mar. 30, 2022

3. Lil Kalish, “California Task Force: Reparations for Direct Descendants of Enslaved People Only,”, Mar. 30, 2022

4. Maya Brown, “Jewish and Japanese American Groups among Growing Multiracial Effort Calling for Reparations for Black Americans,”, Feb. 26, 2022