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Evanston first US city to offer reparations

Words by Smiley Team

The United States has a complicated history – primarily, America’s relationship with slavery and segregation and the effects they’ve had on the foundation of the country.

One of the biggest talking points is reparations to the offspring and families of formerly enslaved African Americans. There have been small pushes in the government to experiment with some form of reparations like H.R.40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. But there hasn’t been any overarching push for reparations at the federal level.

Instead, there are small communities making reparations a reality, like Evanston, Illinois.

Evanston is a college town north of Chicago that has a population of just over 73,000, and recently the town became the first in the country to offer a form of reparations. The “Restorative Housing Program” serves to make up for historical housing discrimination. 

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“What it says is that reparations is no longer a fringe issue. It is a mainstream issue,” Dr. Ron Daniels, with the National African-American Reparations Commission, told ABC. “People aren't talking anymore about whether there should be reparations. The debate is in what forms and how it can move forward.”

Research commissioned by the City of Evanston, which formed the groundwork for the reparations policy, uncovered city-mandated housing discrimination during that period. This includes things like redlining, demolishing Black-owned homes for commercial purposes, and depriving Black communities of essential services by closing the only school and hospital.

These actions “led to the decline of socioeconomic status and hindered the ability to acquire wealth for Evanston’s Black community,” the researchers found.

The reparations are coming in the form of $25,000 for things like home repairs, mortgages, and down payments. To qualify, residents must either have lived in or be a direct descendant of a Black person who lived in Evanston between 1919 to 1969 and suffered a form of discrimination related to housing because of city ordinances, policies, or practices. 

This only makes up about 4% of the funds the city has set aside for the reparations program, which they’re planning on rolling out over 10 years.

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