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Statement by Tom Steyer Marking 400 Years Since American Slavery

August 20, 2019

(SAN FRANCISCO, August 20, 2019) Today, Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer released the following statement to mark 400 years since slavery began in America:

Four hundred years ago today the first slave ship arrived in Virginia, carrying more than 20 Africans, thus building the foundation of the United States on the subjugation of a race of people. Centuries of forced labor, horrific violence, and constant dehumanization ensued, culminating in a nation wrenched apart by a Civil War, yet to be fully stitched back together.

The 246 years of free labor from the arrival of the first slave ship to the abolishment of slavery with the ratification of the 13th Amendment, and the subsequent decades of oppression made the United States the most economically prosperous country in the world. And it is time for America to truly acknowledge the debt that is owed to the descendants of those enslaved Africans — a debt we must settle.

Institutional racism, discriminatory government policies, and unequal treatment have robbed generations of African-American families the ability to acquire economic wealth and deprived them of justice and equality for all. We are long overdue to have a conversation about how these actions have disadvantaged the African-American community and fueled racial disparities.

There are still outstanding questions about what form a reparations program would take, who would benefit, and how it would be financed. Still, I support the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, to tell the truth about the impacts of slavery, analyze its lasting effects, and determine how to provide redress for the centuries of forced free labor, oppression, rape, torture, and murder inflicted upon African-Americans. This conversation will be difficult and the work challenging, but it is absolutely critical — only then will we all be free.

Tom Steyer, Statement by Tom Steyer Marking 400 Years Since American Slavery Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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