A U.S. House of Representatives committee is due to consider Wednesday a bill to create a commission to study the history of slavery in the United States and recommend "appropriate remedies."
Lawmakers have for decades introduced legislation to examine slavery, which began in the U.S. in the early 1600s, as well as discrimination against the descendants of African who were forcefully brought to the U.S. and subjected to slavery.
The House Judiciary Committee says its markup session will be the first for one of those bills. During the markup process, committee members weigh possible changes to the legislation, and usually bills reaching that step have enough support to be sent on to the full House for consideration.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler said the legislation, known as H.R. 40, is meant to "reckon with our past and bring us closer to racial understanding and advancement."
"Long after slavery was abolished, segregation and subjugation of African Americans was a defining part of this nation's policies that shaped its values and its institutions," Nadler said in a statement last week. "Today, we still live with racial disparities in access to education, health care, housing, insurance, employment and other social goods that are directly attributable to the damaging legacy of slavery and government-sponsored racial discrimination."
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, right, speaks during a hearing about reparation for the descendants of slaves before the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, at the Capitol on June 19, 2019.
The bill's sponsor, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, said the bill will allow the United States to "finally be able to confront the stark societal disparities occurring in the African American community today and provide solutions."
She added that the commission, if established, would build upon efforts already begun by local governments and private institutions "to reckon with our past and bring us closer to racial understanding and advancement."
The bill would have to pass the majority-Democrat House, the evenly split Senate, and be signed into law by Democratic President Joe Biden.
The legislation calls for the commission to also examine the roles that the federal government and state governments played in supporting slavery and laws that discriminated against the descendants of enslaved people. It would also examine "the lingering effects of slavery on African Americans."