The Rev. Jesse Jackson says of reparations proposal, it's time 'to take seriously the damage done' by slavery

“Segregation and discrimination is slavery bleeding,” the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson said Wednesday about the lingering effects of slavery in the United States, and is the reasoning behind the call for reparations for African Americans.

“Let’s just study it,” the longtime civil rights leader and former Democratic candidate said in a meeting with The Baltimore Sun's editorial board.


Jackson, in town to attend the National Baptist Convention conference, spoke to The Sun an hour after the House Judiciary subcommittee finished debating HR 40, a bill that would create a commission to study the impact of slavery in the United States and recommend reparations for descendants based on its lingering effects on African Americans.

“If there’s no damage,” Jackson said, “then there’s no repair needed to be done.”


The hearing came on Juneteenth, a holiday that commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S. 154 years later. According to Jackson, reparations aim to reconcile not “personal racism,” but structural racism.

Jackson helped bring reparations to national attention in 1988 during his presidential campaign and has spoken about it since. In 1994, he was quoted in The New York Times as saying: “The voices that cry out for reparations have been seen as marginal or radical. … What is America willing to do to repair the damage done?”

On Wednesday, Jackson told The Sun, “I’m not sure what’s the best form to deal with it.” Although Jackson concedes that he doesn’t have all the answers on what reparations would specifically look like, he said it’s time “to take seriously the damage done.”

He further explained how the free labor of enslaved Africans continues to fester and is persistent in stubborn forms. “Is there discrimination in Baltimore?” Jackson asked. “This thing is not over.”

The Baptist minister argued that if dough is formed to a specific shape, it will inevitably rise to that same shape. “We have people all out of shape,” Jackson said, “they’re shaped like inequity with all kinds of distortions.

“We have to change that. That’s the challenge today.”