BURLINGTON, Vt. – A Burlington task force created to study slavery reparations held its first meeting Wednesday evening.
The task force will eventually develop reparation proposals for African Americans living in Burlington to account for decades of economic, political, educational and social discrimination.
The full city council resolution detailing the task force’s scope and the reason for its creation can be read here.
Discussions will go far beyond the question of how much money should be dedicated toward reparations. The task force will be taking on a comprehensive research project that will document how slavery and discrimination has adversely impacted the Black community.
“These are a lot of tasks, it’s not something for the light of heart,” said task force member Tyeastia Green. “It’s definitely something that academic professionals would have to undertake.”
Green also serves as Burlington’s Director of Racial Equity, Inclusion and Belonging. Other task force members include Pablo Bose (Professor of Geography, University of Vermont), Hal Colston (State Representative, Director of Partnership for Change), Christine Hughes (New Seasons Vermont and Racial Justice Alliance), and Rebecca Zietlow (Professor of Law and Values at the University of Toledo College of Law).
The five-member task force wants to enlist a variety of academic minds to charter the research project. Topics they would research include Northern complicity in slavery and Burlington’s role in chattel slavery. The academics would also research discriminatory practices like redlining, as well as systemic issues in education, finance and housing.
The researchers would report directly to the reparations task force as their work progresses.
“Having all those different points of view and coming at it in a different way to build a cohesive, living document is what I was envisioning,” Green said. “We will get that report ourselves, we will speak as a group about what it is we have read, and what our recommendations will be based on the recommendations that are in that report.”
Task force member Rebecca Zietlow has done extensive research on the Reconstruction Era, including the meaning and history of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments. She had some recommendations for who might be able to help the task force with their research.
“The first is legal scholars who are critical race theorists who have written about issues of reparations,” Zietlow said. “The other would be historians. I have some contacts with the Society of Civil War Historians who I know have been very interested in public education and how the history affects the now.”
The task force has roughly a year to gather information and report back to city council with recommendations. Mayor Miro Weinberger said this first meeting marks a monumental step for the City of Burlington.
“I am proud that Burlington is the first City in the country to examine and account for the role it has played in the foundational injustice of chattel slavery and the responsibility of repairing its harm,” Weinberger said. “A shameful chapter of the long, terrible history of slavery and its aftermath is that for over 30 years, congress has refused to even study the possibility of reparations, despite annual resolutions calling for that examination.”