California governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, signed a law on Wednesday that mandates the establishment of a state task force to develop possible reparations to the descendants of slaves.
The new law makes California the first state to study potential reparations. The passage of the law by the California government follows a summer of nationwide demonstrations and riots following the death of George Floyd, an African American man killed during his arrest by Minneapolis police officers.
“Advancing this cause where it’s not just a question on a questionnaire for a candidate running for office but actually taking shape here, that’s a meaningful moment,” Newsom said in comments reported by the Sacramento Bee.
The new law mandates the formation of a nine-member task force to research the issue, with members appointed by the governor and the state legislature. No specific amount of restitution is recommended by the law itself.
California was incorporated into the U.S. as a free state in 1850. However, in 1852 the state legislature passed a law allowing white slaveowners to bring slaves to work in California, as long as they eventually returned the slaves to southern states where slavery was legal. Slavery was legally abolished throughout the U.S. with the ratification of the 13th Amendment 1865.