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   CBS News | National

"We must apologize when there is apologizing to do."
Mayor Richard Daley


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CBS News Correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports on a push for reparations valued at over $1 trillion

Related Links

  • Proposed Reparations Study Commission by Rep. John Conyers

  • Find Conyers Bill H.R. 40 on the U.S. Congress Web site Thomas

  • Yale's Avalon Project : Statutes of the United States Concerning Slavery

  • National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America

  • The Emancipation Proclamation at the National Archives

  • Key To Media

    Chicago Urges Reparations Hearings
  • City Council Urges Congress To Study Matter
  • Detroit, Cleveland, Dallas Have Made Similar Calls
  • Mayor Daley: 'It’s About Time'

  • CHICAGO, May 17, 2000
    The Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Lincoln in 1863, granted freedom to slaves in rebel states
    (CBS) The Chicago City Council passed a resolution Wednesday calling on Congress to consider payments to the descendants of slaves.

    In a city that became known as a refuge for blacks fleeing the Old South, the echo of slavery still rings.

    So does the question of how to make amends for sins committed generations ago.

    "We must apologize when there is apologizing to do," Mayor Richard Daley says. "It's about time that America does this."

    Supporters of the reparations, which could surpass trillions of dollars, point to recent payments to survivors of the Holocaust and to the Japanese Americans forced into internment camps during World War II.

    The measure was sponsored by Dorothy Tillman, a black member of the council, who says: "Americans have a shame that they have to look at. We built this country. Can you imagine owning a business with free labor, 400 years of free labor and 150 years of Jim Crow?"

    Chicago is the biggest city yet to weigh in on the issue of U.S. reparations for the descendants of slaves. Similar measures have been passed by city councils in Detroit, Cleveland and Dallas.

    Rep. John Coyners, D-Mich., has introduced a bill calling for a commission to study reparations.

    The lone vote against the measure was cast by Alderman Brian Doherty who says residents in his Northwest Side ward did not participate in the slavery system.

    "It's not their responsibility and they don't feel it's their responsibility," he says.

    Molly Dillon was born on a plantation in 1913. Sent to pick cotton at the age of six, she says not much had changed in the years since her grandparents were freed.

    Dillon says: "I don't hate anybody, but I do go back and I do think about how could it be done. But it was."

    Local columnist Neil Steinberg says he would support reparations if it would end racism, but he doesn't believe it will.

    Steinberg says, "I think this will flush every racist out of the woodwork that you can imagine and if I were an African American I would be deeply concerned that this would not only not help things but would reverse things."

    Professor Barack Obama of the University of Chicago supports more discussion on the issue, but says any law would likely be spiked in the courts.

    "Nobody denies that slavery was egregious act," he says. "Generally the Supreme Court has a philosophy that you have to identify a clear wrongdoer and a clear victim."

    Alderman Ed Smith said there's not enough money in the universe to compensate blacks for what they suffered because of slavery.

    "The issue of reparations is being talked about all over the country. It is not being talked about in Congress," Smith said.

    Copyright 2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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