Evanston, Illinois Passes First Reparations Program for Black Residents

On March 22, the Chicago suburb of Evanston became the first municipality in the Country to approve a government reparations program for eligible Black residents of the City.

The program initially makes $400,000 available to Black residents – in $25,000 homeownership and improvement grants, as well as in mortgage assistance – who can show they are direct descendants of individuals who lived in the City between 1919 and 1969 and suffered from discrimination. Evanston’s City Council approved the measure by an 8-1 vote that acknowledges the harm caused by discriminatory housing policies, practices, and inaction going back more than a century.

“Right now the whole world is looking at Evanston, Illinois. This is a moment like none other that we’ve ever seen, and it’s a good moment,” said Ron Daniels, president of the National African American Reparations Commission. To fund the initiative, the Evanston City Council developed plans to direct revenue from a three percent tax on legalized cannabis sales into assistance for home loans.

The Evanston reparations program has received immediate praise and support, but also criticism and opposition from those within the community and around the country. Proponents and supporters of the Evanston reparations program argue that this is a critical step in rectifying centuries of wrongs caused by slavery, segregation, and housing discrimination. However, many feel the program will set a precedent that doesn’t go far enough, noting that housing programs are limited in scope and will not provide direct economic compensation to many of Evanston’s Black residents.

The debate surrounding reparations is complex, as there are wide-ranging views on the form in which reparations should be made; sources of funding for such reparations; who is eligible for reparations; and the goal of the program. Indeed, like other racial, social, justice, and equality initiatives, reparations is a polarizing and politicized issue.

The Arent Fox Center for Racial Equality recognizes the potential for reparations to play a critical role in addressing the inequalities created by our Country’s history of the enslavement of, and systemic racism against, Black Americans and will focus future efforts on this issue. If you are interested in this issue, please contact us at afcre@arentfox.com.

To read coverage by The New York Timesclick here. To read more about the resolution, click here.

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