JUN 19, 2019 AT 5:00 AM

Author and Baltimore native Ta-Nehisi Coates will testify today in support of a federal study on the issue of reparations for slavery. (Algerina Perna / Baltimore Sun)


The moral case for reparations is a clear one. African-Americans have long suffered from a legacy of slavery and later discriminatory Jim Crow laws and institutional racism in housing, education and health that has helped to create and perpetuate an underclass of people. Enslaved Africans literally built this country, but far too many of their ancestors are still left out of its prosperity. Just take the fact that the African-American poverty rate is 21.6 percent, while the rate for the entire country is 12.3 percent. And that’s a tiny part of the picture.

The good thing is that now the country appears more ready than it has been in years to try to come to grips with the sins of the past.

A House of Representatives committee today will hold the first congressional hearing in more than a decade on the topic of reparations for African Americans — specifically a proposal to set up a commission to study the issue. Some key lawmakers have already said they are open to the idea. The hearing is fittingly being held on Juneteenth, which commemorates the emancipation of slaves in America.

It’s far from the first time the idea has been brought before lawmakers. Former Democratic Rep. Jon Conyers of Michigan relentlessly pushed legislation for a study of reparations for 28 years. Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee has now taken the torch, and we hope that new momentum around the issue finally brings Mr. Conyers’ wish to life.