•  Summary 
  •  Actions 
  •  Committee Votes 
  •  Floor Votes 
  •  Memo 
  •  Text 
  •  LFIN 
  •  Chamber Video/Transcript 

S05624 Summary:

Relates to acknowledging the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the city of New York and the state of New York; establishes the commission to study reparations for African-Americans and to recommend remedies to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, the impact of these forces on living African-Americans and to make recommendations on appropriate remedies; makes an appropriation therefor; and provides for the repeal of such provisions.
Go to top    

S05624 Actions:

06/16/2017PRINT NUMBER 5624A
Go to top

S05624 Memo:

Memo not available
Go to top

S05624 Text:

                STATE OF NEW YORK
                               2017-2018 Regular Sessions
                    IN SENATE
                                     April 21, 2017
        Introduced by Sens. SANDERS, ALCANTARA, PARKER -- read twice and ordered
          printed,  and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Finance
          -- committee discharged, bill amended, ordered  reprinted  as  amended
          and recommitted to said committee
        AN  ACT to acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality and
          inhumanity of slavery in the city of New York and  the  state  of  New
          York; to establish the Commission to Study Reparations for African-Am-
          ericans and to Recommend Remedies, to examine the institution of slav-
          ery,  subsequently  de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimi-
          nation against African-Americans, and the impact of  these  forces  on
          living  African-Americans  and  to make recommendations on appropriate
          remedies; making an appropriation  therefor;  and  providing  for  the
          repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof
          The  People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-
        bly, do enact as follows:
     1    Section 1. This act shall be known and may be cited  as  the  "Repara-
     2  tions  commission  on  slavery  in  New York state; a study and call for
     3  remedies act".
     4    § 2. Legislative intent.  Contrary to what many people believe,  slav-
     5  ery  was  not  just  a southern institution. Prior to the American Revo-
     6  lution, there were more enslaved Africans in New York City than  in  any
     7  other city except Charleston, South Carolina. During this period, slaves
     8  accounted for 20% of the population of New York and approximately 40% of
     9  colonial  New York's households owned slaves. These slaves were an inte-
    10  gral part of the population which settled and developed what we now know
    11  as the state of New York.
    12    The first slaves arrived in New Amsterdam, a Dutch  settlement  estab-
    13  lished  at  the  southern  tip  of  Manhattan Island, around 1627. These
    14  enslaved Africans did not belong to  individuals,  but  worked  for  the
    15  Dutch  West  India Company. The Dutch East India Company had established
    16  Fort Amsterdam, a fortification located  on  the  southern  tip  of  the
         EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
                              [ ] is old law to be omitted.

        S. 5624--A                          2
     1  island  of  Manhattan,  for  the  purpose of defending the company's fur
     2  trade operations in the North River, now known as the Hudson  River.  In
     3  1624,  New Amsterdam became a provincial extension of the Dutch Republic
     4  and it was designated the capital of the province in 1625.
     5    These first enslaved Africans cleared forests, prepared land for agri-
     6  culture  and  built  an  infrastructure of roads, buildings and walls of
     7  timber and earthwork, including the wall  that  gives  Wall  Street  its
     8  name.  During  the following years, more and more enslaved Africans were
     9  brought to the New World for the purpose of expanding the settlement.
    10    New Amsterdam came under English control in 1664 and was  renamed  New
    11  York  in  honor  of the then Duke of York, in whose name the English had
    12  captured it. Three years later, the Dutch gave up  their  claim  to  the
    13  town  and  the  rest  of  the colony, in exchange for control of certain
    14  trade routes and areas.
    15    The change of control of the city did not deter  slavery;  it  was  an
    16  enormously profitable enterprise and it continued under the English. New
    17  York  businesses  engaged  directly  in  slave  trade  and  also  in the
    18  production of supplies used in the slave trade.    They  supplied  food,
    19  tools  and  grain  to slave plantations in North America and in the West
    20  Indies.  Slave labor built and maintained ships used for  trade  between
    21  North  America,  Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Slaves produced goods
    22  for sale and worked in private homes.  Even  newspapers  benefited  from
    23  slavery:    advertisements of slaves for purchase were a major source of
    24  revenue for the papers during the eighteenth century.
    25    Life was repressive for slaves in New York. The New York  City  Common
    26  Council  passed  a number of restrictive laws designed at curtailing the
    27  rights and freedoms of slaves.  Slaves were barred from  owning  signif-
    28  icant property and from bequeathing what they did own to their children.
    29  The  number  of  people of African descent who could gather in one place
    30  was limited. Restrictions on movement included requiring slaves to carry
    31  lanterns after dark and to remain in certain geographic areas.
    32    Penalties for breaking these and other  laws  were  severe.  Beatings,
    33  mutilations and executions were common.
    34    Enslaved Africans refused to submit to the slave existence. The condi-
    35  tions  of their lives gave rise to rebellions and the development in the
    36  city of a network of the Underground Railroad.
    37    Not all citizens of New York agreed with slavery.  A  powerful  aboli-
    38  tionist  movement  developed, but the end of slavery in New York did not
    39  come easily or quickly. Those who profited from the slave economy fought
    40  to maintain the system.
    41    In 1799 the New York state legislature passed "An Act for the  Gradual
    42  Abolition  of  Slavery". This legislation was a first step in the direc-
    43  tion of emancipation, but did not have an immediate effect or affect all
    44  slaves. Rather, it provided for gradual manumission. All  children  born
    45  to  slave  women after July 4, 1799 would be freed, but only after their
    46  most productive years: age 28 for men  and  age  25  for  women.  Slaves
    47  already  in  servitude  before July 4, 1799 were reclassified as "inden-
    48  tured servants", but in reality, remained slaves  for  the  duration  of
    49  their lives.
    50    In  1817,  the  Legislature enacted a statute that gave freedom to New
    51  York slaves who had been born before July 4, 1799. This statute did  not
    52  become effective until July 4, 1827, however.
    53    Despite  these laws, there were exceptions under which certain persons
    54  could still own slaves. Non-residents could enter New York  with  slaves
    55  for  up  to nine months, and allowing part-time residents to bring their
    56  slaves into the state temporarily. The  nine-months  exception  remained

        S. 5624--A                          3
     1  law  until  its repeal in 1841, when the North was re-defining itself as
     2  the "free" region in advance of the civil war.
     3    In  1991,  a huge African burial ground was discovered in the heart of
     4  New York's financial district during construction of a  skyscraper.  The
     5  excavations  that  followed  the termination of the construction project
     6  yielded the skeletal remains of 419 Africans, many of  whom  were  women
     7  and children.
     8    The  slavery  that  flourished  in  the  New York state constituted an
     9  immoral and inhumane deprivation of  Africans'  life,  liberty,  African
    10  citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of
    11  their  own  labor. Sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects
    12  of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in
    13  New York.
    14    § 3. Establishment, purpose and duties of the commission.   a.  Estab-
    15  lishment.  There  is  hereby established the Commission to Study Repara-
    16  tions for  African-Americans  and  to  Recommend  Remedies  (hereinafter
    17  referred to as the "commission").
    18    b. Duties. The commission shall perform the following duties:
    19    (1)  Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the state
    20  of New York and in the city of New York.  The  commission's  examination
    21  shall include an examination of:
    22    (A) the capture and procurement of Africans;
    23    (B)  the  transport  of Africans to the United States and the colonies
    24  that became the United States for the purpose of enslavement,  including
    25  their treatment during transport;
    26    (C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in inter-
    27  state and intrastate commerce; and
    28    (D)  the  treatment  of African slaves in the city of New York and the
    29  state of New York, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploita-
    30  tion of their labor, and destruction of their culture,  language,  reli-
    31  gion, and families.
    32    (2)  Examine  the extent to which the federal and state governments of
    33  the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional
    34  and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments
    35  prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of  freed  African  slaves  to
    36  repatriate to their homeland.
    37    (3)  Examine  federal  and state laws that discriminated against freed
    38  African slaves and their descendants during the period between  the  end
    39  of the Civil War and the present.
    40    (4)  Examine  other  forms of discrimination in the public and private
    41  sectors against freed African slaves and their  descendants  during  the
    42  period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
    43    (5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slav-
    44  ery  and  the  matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) of
    45  this subdivision on living  African-Americans  and  on  society  in  the
    46  United States.
    47    (6)  Recommend  appropriate ways to educate the American public of the
    48  commission's findings.
    49    (7) Recommend appropriate remedies in  consideration  of  the  commis-
    50  sion's  findings  on  the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3),
    51  and (4) of this subdivision. In making such recommendations, the commis-
    52  sion shall address among other issues, the following questions:
    53    (A) whether the New York state legislature should offer a formal apol-
    54  ogy on behalf of the people of the United States for the perpetration of
    55  gross human rights violations on African slaves and their descendants;

        S. 5624--A                          4

     1    (B) whether African-Americans still suffer from the lingering  effects
     2  of  the  matters  described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) of this
     3  subdivision;
     4    (C)  whether,  in consideration of the commission's findings, any form
     5  of compensation to the descendants of African slaves is warranted; and
     6    (D) if the commission finds that such compensation is warranted,  what
     7  should  be  the amount of compensation, what form of compensation should
     8  be awarded, and who should be eligible for such compensation.
     9    c. Report to the legislature. The commission shall  submit  a  written
    10  report of its findings and recommendations to the temporary president of
    11  the  senate,  the  speaker  of the assembly, the minority leaders of the
    12  senate and the assembly and the governor not later than the  date  which
    13  is  one  year after the date of the first meeting of the commission held
    14  pursuant to subdivision c of section four of this act.
    15    § 4. Membership. a. The commission shall be composed of eleven members
    16  who shall be appointed within 90 days after the effective date  of  this
    17  act, as follows:
    18    (1) one member shall be appointed by the governor;
    19    (2) one member shall be appointed by the speaker of the assembly;
    20    (3)  one  member  shall be appointed by the temporary president of the
    21  senate;
    22    (4) one member shall be appointed by the minority leader of the assem-
    23  bly;
    24    (5) one member shall be  appointed  by  the  minority  leader  of  the
    25  senate;
    26    (6) two members shall be appointed by the National Coalition of Blacks
    27  for Reparations in America (N.C.O.B.R.A.);
    28    (7) two members shall be appointed by the December 12th Movement; and
    29    (8) two members shall be appointed by Dr. Ron Daniels of the Institute
    30  of the Black World.
    31    b.  All  members of the commission shall be persons who are especially
    32  qualified to serve on the  commission  by  virtue  of  their  education,
    33  training,  or  experience, particularly in the field of African-American
    34  studies.
    35    c. First meeting. The chair  shall  call  the  first  meeting  of  the
    36  commission within 120 days after the effective date of this act or with-
    37  in  30 days after the date on which legislation is enacted making appro-
    38  priations to carry out this act, whichever date is later.
    39    d. Quorum. Eight members of the commission shall constitute a  quorum,
    40  but a lesser number may hold hearings.
    41    e.  Chair  and vice chair. The commission shall elect a Chair and Vice
    42  Chair from among its members. The term of office for each shall  be  for
    43  one year.
    44    f.  Compensation.  The  members  of  the  commission  shall receive no
    45  compensation for their services as members, but shall be reimbursed  for
    46  their actual and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of their
    47  duties.
    48    §  5. Powers of the commission.  a. Hearings and sessions. The commis-
    49  sion may, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions  of  this  act,
    50  hold  such  hearings and sit and act at such times and at such places in
    51  the United States, and request the  attendance  and  testimony  of  such
    52  witnesses  and  the  production  of such books, records, correspondence,
    53  memoranda, papers, and documents, as the commission considers  appropri-
    54  ate.

        S. 5624--A                          5
     1    b.  Powers of subcommittees and members. Any subcommittee or member of
     2  the commission may, if authorized by the  commission,  take  any  action
     3  which the commission is authorized to take by this section.
     4    c.  Obtaining  official data. The commission may acquire directly from
     5  the head of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the  executive
     6  branch  of  the  government,  available information which the commission
     7  considers useful in the discharge of its duties. All departments,  agen-
     8  cies,  and  instrumentalities  of the executive branch of the government
     9  shall cooperate with the commission with respect to such information and
    10  shall furnish all information requested by the commission to the  extent
    11  permitted by law.
    12    §  6.  Administrative  provisions.    a.  Experts and consultants. The
    13  commission may procure through a competitive  process  the  services  of
    14  experts and consultants.
    15    b.  Administrative  support  services.  The  commission may enter into
    16  agreements with the commissioner of general services for procurement  of
    17  financial and administrative services necessary for the discharge of the
    18  duties  of  the  commission.  Payment for such services shall be made by
    19  reimbursement from funds of the commission in such  amounts  as  may  be
    20  agreed  upon  by  the  chair  of  the commission and the commissioner of
    21  general services.
    22    c. Contracts. The commission may:
    23    (1) procure supplies, services, and property by contract in accordance
    24  with applicable laws and regulations  and  to  the  extent  or  in  such
    25  amounts as are provided in appropriations acts; and
    26    (2) enter into contracts with departments, agencies, and instrumental-
    27  ities  of  the  federal  government,  state agencies, and private firms,
    28  institutions, and agencies, for the conduct of research or surveys,  the
    29  preparation of reports, and other activities necessary for the discharge
    30  of the duties of the commission, to the extent or in such amounts as are
    31  provided in appropriations acts.
    32    §  7.  Termination.  The  commission shall terminate 90 days after the
    33  date on which the commission submits its report to the temporary  presi-
    34  dent of the senate, the speaker of the assembly, the minority leaders of
    35  the  senate and the assembly and the governor as provided in subdivision
    36  c of section three of this act.
    37    § 8. The performance of the commission's duties, purposes  and  objec-
    38  tives  shall  be executed within amounts made available by appropriation
    39  therefor.
    40    § 9. The sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000),  or  so
    41  much  thereof as may be necessary, is hereby appropriated to the Commis-
    42  sion to Study Reparations for African-Americans and to  Recommend  Reme-
    43  dies  from  any  moneys  in  the state treasury in the general fund, not
    44  otherwise appropriated, for the purposes of carrying out the  provisions
    45  of  this  act. Such sum shall be payable on the audit and warrant of the
    46  state chair of the Commission to Study Reparations for African-Americans
    47  and to Recommend Remedies, or his or her duly designated  representative
    48  in the manner provided by law.
    49    §  10.  This act shall take effect immediately and shall expire and be
    50  deemed repealed 30 days after the Commission to  Study  Reparations  for
    51  African-Americans  and  to  Recommend Remedies submits its report to the
    52  temporary president of the senate, the  speaker  of  the  assembly,  the
    53  minority  leaders  of  the  senate  and the assembly and the governor as
    54  provided in subdivision c of section three of this act;  provided  that,
    55  the  chair  of the Commission to Study Reparations for African-Americans
    56  and to Recommend Remedies shall notify  the  legislative  bill  drafting

        S. 5624--A                          6
     1  commission  upon the submission of its report as provided in subdivision
     2  c of section three of this act in order that the commission may maintain
     3  an accurate and timely effective data base of the official text  of  the
     4  laws of the state of New York in furtherance of effecting the provisions
     5  of  section  44  of  the  legislative law and section 70-b of the public
     6  officers law.
Go to top