Chicago Mayor orders development of Black Reparations Agenda for the city

BY Preta Peace Namasaba June 25, 2024 7:54 AM EDT
This city in Illinois has transferred its reparation fund to a Black owned bank. Photo credit: Bob Korn/Shutterstock

Chicago has joined the growing number of cities across the U.S. that have explored reparations as a means to address the impact of slavery and systematic segregation. Mayor Brandon Johnson has signed Executive Order 2024-1 to create a Reparations Task Force geared towards developing a Black Reparations Agenda in the city. The task force will conduct a thorough study of the policies and ordinances that have harmed Black Chicagoans – in the past and present – and make recommendations for appropriate remedies.

“Today’s Executive Order is not just a public declaration; it is a pledge to shape the future of our city by confronting the legacy of inequity that has plagued Chicago for far too long. In partnership with the Chicago City Council Black Caucus and our dedicated allies, we are continuing to build on the bedrock of my administration to move forward in reconciliation through targeted investments aimed at rectifying decades of deliberate disinvestment in Black neighborhoods and communities,” Mayor Johnson said about the executive order.

The executive order acknowledges the harmful legacy of slavery and Jim Crow laws as incompatible with Chicago’s Equity Statement of Principles, which promotes fair and just access to opportunities and resources for all residents. Johnson issued an apology on behalf of the city for historical wrongs against Black Chicagoans and their ancestors. Additionally, the order addresses the present impact of slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other discriminatory practices on Black Chicagoans. The task force aims to address the disparities in life expectancy, unemployment, homeownership rates, home values and incarceration rates and move towards a more equitable future for all.

The task force will work alongside the Aldermanic Black Caucus which is made up of City Council members who represent predominantly Black communities, the Mayor’s offices of Equity and Racial Justice, Business, Economic and Neighborhood Development, and other key city departments to develop and implement a Chicago Black Reparations Agenda. It will create a definition and framework for reparations, develop educational tools to build capacity, identify core issue areas for redress, and conduct a broad study of all policies that have harmed Black Chicagoans. The task force will then make recommendations on appropriate remedies and ways to educate the public on the report.

The executive order is not Chicago’s first attempt to examine the case for reparations. Mayor Johnson previously invested $500,000 in the 2024 city budget to study Reparations and Restoration. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 30% of Chicago residents are Black. Approximately six million Black people relocated from the South to northern, midwestern, and western cities, including Chicago during Great Migration, which is regarded as one of the largest movements of people in U.S. history.

“Like many cities across this country, Chicago still bears the scars of systemic racism and injustices that have been inflicted on our communities. The disinvestment in our communities have been intentional. And of course, that’s why it’s imperative that it is now the time to deliver good on reparations for people of Chicago, particularly Black people,” Mayor Johnson said during the Juneteenth flag-raising ceremony.

In 2019, Evanston became the first city in the United States to enact a government-funded reparations program. It is considered a successful example of how reparations can be meaningfully made. Most recently, the California state Senate passed three reparations bills as part of a broader legislative effort to provide restitution to descendants of slaves.