Tennessee House kills anti-reparations bill amid overwhelming public pressure

Nashville, Tennessee - The Tennessee House on Wednesday killed a bill that would have banned the study and financing of reparations for Black Americans.

The Tennessee House voted to table legislation that would have barred funding the study or disbursement of reparations.
The Tennessee House voted to table legislation that would have barred funding the study or disbursement of reparations.  © IMAGO / YAY Images

The Republican-controlled chamber voted 52-43 to table HB 474, legislation that would prevent counties, municipalities, and metropolitan governments from funding the study or disbursement of reparations.

The bill specified that reparations refers to "money or benefits provided to an individual who is the descendant of persons who were enslaved as compensation for the enslavement of the individual's ancestors."

HB 474 rose to national attention as a petition effort opposing the legislation – organized by the Rev. Dr. Earle Fisher – gained more than 3,000 signatures.

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The measure was widely seen as an effort to stymy the growing movement for justice sweeping states and cities around the country following the 2020 murder of George Floyd.

Tennessee state Representative Justin Jones in December 2023 expressed his intent to introduce reparations legislation this year. In February 2023, Shelby County, the Volunteer State's largest, voted to approve a reparations study.

"While we celebrate this victory, our work is far from over. I encourage all of you to stay engaged and involved as we shift our focus towards implementing local reparations efforts in Memphis and Shelby County," Rev. Fisher wrote after the vote.

"Together, we can make a difference, create positive change, and pave the way for a more equitable and just society."

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HB 474's defeat follows a similar effort in Florida, where state Senator Blaise Ingoglia earlier this year presented a failed joint resolution that would have barred city or state reparations to descendants of enslaved people.

At the national level, Republican Congressman Brian Babin of Texas has introduced HR 4321, the "No Bailouts for Reparations Act," to block federal funding to cities and states that enact reparations programs.

Meanwhile, demands are growing for President Joe Biden to enact a federal reparations commission by executive order without further delay.

Cover photo: IMAGO / YAY Images

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