Marshall city councilor set to propose reparations, apology from city for slavery

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MARSHALL, Texas (KTAL/KMSS) – A Marshall city councilman plans to propose a resolution Thursday that would have the city formally apologize for its history of slavery and provide reparations, including the removal of the Confederate statue at the Harrison County Courthouse.

The proposed ordinance also calls for slavery education and the declaration of Juneteenth as a city-wide holiday.

“The use of uncompensated slave labor in Marshall, Texas and the U.S. is one of the major causes for the rise of the U.S. as the strongest and wealthiest nation in the world,” Dist. 1 Council Member Marvin Bonner says in his proposed Slave Reparations, Apology Slave Era Ordinance Law, noting that Marshall was one of the largest slaveholding cities in the state of Texas.

Bonner’s resolution says the city made it a felony in the mid-1800s to obstruct the recapture of escaped slaves, advertised the sale of slaves in local newspapers, and had a slave population of more than 52%, among other commerce and business practices that enriched slave owners and banks while using free slave labor for everything from picking cotton and building roads to building city and government buildings and laying railroad tracks.

The resolution is set to be introduced during the Marshall City Council regular meeting at 6 p.m. Click here for information on how to access the meeting virtually.

In laying out the justification for the proposed reparations, the ordinance notes that “freed slaves and their descendants have never received any compensation for generations of labor expropriation, deprivation of freedom and rights, widespread injury and death, while making great contributions to the economic strength and security of the City of Marshall, Texas and the nation.”

It also says African American residents have faced occupational discrimination due to the inequities in hiring, compensation, promotion, and retention within both private and public employment.

The proposed ordinance includes the following provisions:

  • That the Marshall City Council during the month of June 2021 declare slavery as a crime against humanity, apologize for slavery in Marshall, Texas, and pass a reparations ordinance as a Slave era ordinance law to be declared on June 19, 2021 as a new ordinance and a new city-wide holiday.
  • That the Marshall City Council provide funding for a June 19, 2021 (Juneteenth) online/tv broadcast of the slave documentary “Finding Mirriam” to educate Texas about Marshall’s slave history and the passage of this resolution and ordinance.
  • That the Marshal City Council mandate Marshall ISD to screen “Finding Miriam” in K-12 classrooms as a comprehensive documentary on the history of slavery in Marshall, Texas, the transatlantic slave trade, and the historical repercussions of these crimes against humanity.
  • That the Marshal City Council be determined to preserved Marshall historical slave records and to safeguard equity for all of its residents.
  • That the Marshall City Council negotiate with Harrison County to remove the remaining Confederate statue in downtown Marshall at the Harrison County Courthouse, which stands as a symbol of hate and the vestiges of slavery and the Civil War.

Previous efforts to have the Confederate statue removed have thus far fallen short. A petition calling on the Harrison County Commission to take it down garnered nearly 9,500 signatures late last summer, which prompted another group to circulate a petition to keep it in place. In August, one commissioner moved to remove the monument, but could not get enough support from the rest of the board to get it on the agenda.

While the ordinance does not specifically call for financial reparations to individuals, it does note that Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D) of Houston, Texas has submitted a resolution to Congress with the support of President Joe Biden that would authorize a study of violent historical events and make recommendations for reparations.

Bonner also notes that other U.S. cities, including Baltimore, Austin, Chicago, and Los Angeles have all passed “Slave Era Ordinance laws and resolutions to investigate the impact of slavery and make recommendations.

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