New Jersey Senate and Assembly Committees could soon consider legislation, S386 and A938, that calls for a special task force to be formed to review the history of slavery in the Garden State and propose different ways to offer reparations for Black residents.

According to Jean-Pierre Brutus, the senior counsel for the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice economic justice program, a Reparations Task Force is sorely needed.

He said the task force would do a complete review of the harms caused by slavery in Jersey “and then come up with a series of policies, remedies, recommendations to address these harms and atrocities, and how can New Jersey move forward.”

Slavery played a key role in NJ

He said slavery was a key part of Jersey’s historical economy, politics and culture, and “these policies, these practices that produced these racial inequities have impact on the present day to day New Jersey.”

Racism And Hate Social Issue
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He pointed out that enslaved Africans in New Jersey could not own land, and now the Garden State has one of the highest racial wealth gaps in America, with the median net worth of white New Jersey families at $320,500 compared to $17,500 for Black families. Many more white families own homes that Black ones.

Brutus also stressed institutionalized prejudice against Blacks has continued in many ways in recent decades, so now need to be thinking about what can be done to right those wrongs.

Payments and programs

He said the Task Force would look at the issue of direct, monetary payments for descendants of slaves “but there are also other aspects to reparations, right, there are policies and programs structurally to end the kind of racial disparities, the racial inequities that we can see.”

“It’s not just about checks. That’s one aspect. It’s also about policy recommendations to address the harms, right, to repair, to heal, to move forward.”

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The legislation, referred to the State Senate Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee and the Assembly Local Government Committee would establish an 11 member Reparations Task Force “to study and develop reparations proposals for African-Americans in this State.

The task force would then:

⚫ Examine the institution of slavery within the State of New Jersey

⚫ Examine the extent to which the State of New Jersey and the federal government prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of former enslaved persons and their descendants who are considered United States’ citizens to economically thrive upon the ending of slavery

⚫ Examine the lingering negative effects of slavery on living African-Americans and on society in New Jersey and the United States

⚫ Research methods and materials for facilitating education, community dialogue, symbolic acknowledgment, and other formal actions leading toward transformation, reparations remedies, a sense of justice, and economic justice among the descendants of enslaved African people in this State

⚫ Make recommendations for what remedies should be awarded, through what instrumentalities, and to whom those remedies should be awarded

⚫ Address how said recommendations comport with national and international standards of remedy for wrongs and injuries caused by the State

The proposed measure stipulates the task force will hold at least six public meetings in different parts of the State, including Camden, Paterson, Newark, New Brunswick, Atlantic City, and Trenton, then issue an interim report of its progress to the Governor and the Legislature no later than 12 months following the initial meeting.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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