John ConyersCongressman John Conyers (D-Mich.) has re-introduced H.R. 40, the “Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act,” for the 111th Congress.

This legislation is enthusiastically supported by several DeWolf family members who appear in Traces of the Trade, and Rep. Conyers prominently mentioned our documentary when he introduced the bill. He is also a long-time supporter of our work, having flown to Park City, Utah last year to appear at the film’s world premiere on Martin Luther King Day at the Sundance Film Festival.

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Since last year, there has been a series of legislative developments, at the state and national levels, related to the legacy of slavery and the slave trade. I’ve blogged about each of these efforts separately in the past, but in this entry, I want to offer a quick overview of the various legislative proposals and their current status.

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The U.S. Senate will consider an apology for slavery and the subsequent history of legalized discrimination, under a plan announced by senators Sam Brownback and Tom Harkin and covered in an article made available by USA Today this evening.

Harkin and Brownback have already lined up 14 co-sponsors, including presidential candidates Clinton and Obama, for their proposed apology, which they plan to introduce in the Senate as early as March.

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Today, January 1, 2008, marks the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade.

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The House Judiciary Committee has released the witness list for tomorrow’s hearing, by the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, on the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.

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The House Judiciary Committee has just scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday, December 18, on the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade.

This hearing is expected to cover H.R. 40, the bill proposed each year by the committee chair, Rep. John Conyers, to establish a commission to study reparations for slavery; H.Res. 194, a resolution calling for the House to apologize for slavery; and perhaps H.R. 3432, legislation to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the U.S. slave trade.

The hearing will be held by the Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, in Room 2141 of the Rayburn House Office Building at 10:00am. Witnesses will be announced later.

There is a rumor going around that Congressman John Conyers, chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has scheduled a hearing next week on H.R. 40, the bill which would establish a commission to study reparations for slavery.

There is even a press release, apparently issued by N’COBRA, which has been e-mailed to interested persons and is currently making its way around the Internet. This press release gives a specific day, time, and location for the hearing.

However, the House Judiciary Committee has not scheduled a hearing on H.R. 40 for next week, and is not even scheduled to hold any hearings next week.

Whether Rep. Conyers will schedule a hearing on H.R. 40 for another date in the near future remains to be seen.

Update: The committee has now scheduled a hearing for Tuesday, December 18, at 10:00am on the legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. This is the hearing which was expected earlier in the month, and it should cover H.R. 40 among other bills.

According to the Boston Globe, Senator Sam Brownback intends to offer a resolution in the Senate this week calling for Congress to apologize for slavery.

Brownback, a social conservative running for president, says that he has a Democratic partner for his proposal, which fits with earlier efforts on his part to address historic injustices committed against American Indians and others.

This resolution would join H.Res. 194, Rep. Cohen’s earlier resolution currently before the House.

Many people are familiar with H.R. 40, the perennial House bill proposing a commission to examine the legacy of slavery and possible remedies. Rep. John Conyers (D), currently chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has introduced this bill in every Congress since 1989. (The bill number is chosen to reflect the phrase “forty acres and a mule,” which came to symbolize the brief and unrealized promise of compensation to slaves freed after the Civil War.)

There are two other major items pending in the U.S. House which also bear on slavery and the slave trade:

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