Democrats pressure banks to atone for slavery-era activities to ‘redress past wrongs’

digital sign showing money signs

By Peter Kasperowicz

December 7, 2022

Banks should fund community development in Black communities, support the education of the next several generations of Black students and take other steps to atone for the role they played financing and supporting slavery in America, witnesses told a House committee hearing organized by Democrats on Wednesday.

The House Financial Services Committee held a hearing on “The Role of Financial Institutions in the Horrors of Slavery and the Need for Atonement,” which could be the final hearing led by Chairwoman Maxine Waters, D-Calif., before Republicans take control of the House in January.

William Darity, a professor of public policy at Duke University, said the slave trade was a major contributor to the growth of the U.S. financial sector, and said slavery is why Black families are so far behind White families when it comes to household net worth. Darity said a 2020 study says the average White household net worth is $840,000 higher than net worth for Black families and said bridging that gap would be expensive.

“The collective amount required to close the disparity for approximately 40 million black American descendants of persons enslaved in the United States will come to at least $14 trillion,” he said in his written testimony. “This is a sum that cannot be met reasonably by private donors or other levels of government.”