By Candice Williams
January 26, 2023
A little more than three years after “The 1619 Project” published in The New York Times Magazine, presenting a provocative examination of the American slave trade and its legacy, Nikole Hannah-Jones will debut her Pulitzer Prize-winning work on Hulu Thursday with a specific purpose in mind: to strengthen the case for reparations.
“We’re going to have to fight for equality, whether we get reparations or not,” she said. “But I would rather we’re fighting for equality having gotten some semblance of financial justice for the financial and other crimes that Black people have experienced.”
The Hulu series, produced under the Onyx Collective brand, carefully builds a case for reparations by providing a historic and contemporary analysis of the impact of slavery. Hannah-Jones’ argument for reparations, though, is not new.
The fight for reparations has been going on for centuries in federal and state governments. During every congressional session from 1989 until he retired in 2017, Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., introduced a bill to create a commission to report on the impact of slavery and offer recommendations for reparations known as H.R. 40.
The bill finally passed a committee vote in the House in 2021, with Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, as its lead sponsor. Even with that milestone, Duke University professor and economist William Darity said it’s unlikely that a reparations bill will pass with a Republican majority in the House. Still, he remains a staunch advocate for reparations and the elimination of the racial wealth gap.
“I don’t think there’s anything else that can be done besides a federal program, direct payments to Black American descendants of U.S. slavery,” Darity said. “If the focus is on the racial wealth gap as the strongest economic indicator of the cumulative intergenerational effects of white supremacy in the United States, then no, there’s nothing that can be done by other entities, or there’s no other policies besides a direct payment strategy that would truly, truly accomplish that goal.”