This timeline was constructed from my own historical research.

Reparation Timeline

Jan.16, 1865


William Sherman issues Special Field Order #15 (with the War Department's okay), which sets aside land along the Georgia and South Carolina coasts for black settlement. Each family is to receive 40 acres, and sometimes, the loan of army mules.

It was later rescinded.

Congress passes a bill establishing the Freedmen's Bureau to oversee the transition of blacks from slavery to freedom. The bureau controls 850,000 acres of abandoned and confiscated land.

1866 & 1867
Representative Thaddeus Stevens introduces reparations bills in 1866 and 1867. Both houses of Congress approve a bill for reparations, but Andrew Johnson vetoes it.

Cornelius Jones sues the U.S. government, arguing that it had profited from slave labor through a federal tax on cotton. Since the slaves had never been paid, Jones calculates that they were owed $68 million. Jones loses his suit.

In Martin Luther King Jr's book, "Why We Can't Wait", King writes that while "no amount of gold could provide adequate compensation for the exploitation of the Negro in America down through the centuries," a price could be placed on unpaid wages.


  Ray Jenkins, a Detroit activist, takes up the reparations battle and forms a one-man organization called Slave Labor Annuity Pay. He distributes leaflets, makes speeches, sends letters to black organizations and personalities. He becomes known as the father of the modern black reparations movement.

  Civil Rights Act of 1964 -- Title VII prohibits employment discrimination based on race, sex, national origin, or religion. Title VI prohibits public access discrimination, leading to school desegregation. Title VIII is the original "federal fair housing law," later amended in 1988.


James Forman, director of international affairs with the Student Non- Violent Coordinating Committee, interrupts a service at New York City's Riverside Church to deliver his "Black Manifesto" demanding $500 million in reparations from white synagogues and churches.


Conyers first introduces a bill that would establish a commission to examine slavery and its lingering effects on African Americans and contemporary U.S. society. (He has introduced legislation to examine the lingering effects of slavery and the case for reparations in every congressional session since 1989. In every session, the bill has failed to win a hearing.)

Civil Rights Act of 1991 -- adds provisions to Title VII protections, including right to jury trial.

House of Representatives Bill 891, which calls for a Reparations Study Commission, is introduced in the 104th Congress by John Conyers and former representative, Norm Mineta.

After being sued by descendants of African slaves for a number of kinds of damages, the Ninth Circuit affirms that the Federal Tort Claims Act (which waives the government's "sovereign immunity" in some situations, but retains it in others), bars such suits.

June 1997

President Clinton launches what he says will be a "great and unprecedented conversation about race" that will "transform the problem of prejudice into the promise of unity." The "conversation" falls short of it's expectations for many, and ends up becoming a forum for black grievances.

During his trip to Africa, President Clinton says, "Going back to the time before we were even a nation, European Americans received the fruits of the slave trade and we were wrong in that." This is the closest the American government has come to an apology.


President Clinton apologizes and the U.S. government pays $10 million to the black survivors and family members victimized by the syphilis experiment conducted in the 1930's by the U.S. Public Health Service.


Jan. 6, 1999
Representative John Conyers introduces the "Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act"