Boston Church Leaders Demand $15 Billion in Reparations From White Churches

$15 billion in reparations. That’s the amount that Boston Church Leaders have demanded from “white churches” as compensation for their involvement in the slave trade. This has caused anger from certain factions, but many are urging the city churches to pay up. Here’s the full story.

Demand for Reparations


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“Black people, the descendants of slavery, have been washing the feet of our oppressors for well over 400 years. Now it’s time for you to wash our feet,” Danielle Williams, the director of the activist group Prophetic Resistance Boston, announced at a press conference on Saturday.

Activist Call to Action

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“The descendants of slavery, we want our reparations. We want it now,” she continued to say to a large crowd gathered inside the Resurrection Lutheran Church.

Gathering of Clergy Leaders

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Black and white clergy leaders from across the city of Boston gathered for this press conference, organized by the Boston People’s Reparations Commission – a lobby group that’s pushing for the city to create multiple initiatives to address its long history of slavery.

The Boston People’s Reparations Commission

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Head of the commission, Reverend Kevin Peterson, hosted the conference, in which he called “on the white churches in Boston to join us in supporting a black reparations movement.” 

Reverend Kevin Peterson’s Address

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His hopes were that these churches would “not be silent around this issue of racism and slavery” and would work towards an amenable solution.

Allocation of Reparations Funds

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16 black and white clergymen signed the commission’s letter, which, according to the Boston Globe, offered suggestions on how the $15 billion in reparations could be paid. 

Initiatives for Reparations

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Cash for Boston’s black residents was a priority, but affordable housing was at the top of the list, as well as backing new “financial and economic institutions in Black Boston.”

Dividing The $15 Billion

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During the press conference, Peterson advocated that the $15 billion reparations package be divided between those three initiatives, $5 billion a piece.

Financial Scale of the Reparations Proposal

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$15 billion would be over three times the annual budget of Boston, which is around $4 billion.

Churches Urged to Participate

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“We point to them in Christian love to publicly atone for the sins of slavery,” Peterson said before asking them to commit to a process of reparations “Where they will extend their great wealth – tens of millions of dollars among some of those churches – into the black community.”

Historical Ties to Slavery

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Boston churches have a long and dark history with the slave trade. Many churches owned slaves – both clergy and parishioners. Some individual churches possessed hundreds of slaves, leading to estimates that the total number owned solely within the ministry reached into the thousands.

Appeal to Churches for Support

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The letter explicitly names four Boston churches, Arlington Street Church, Trinity Church, Old South Church, and King’s Chapel – all built in the 17th and 18th centuries when the slave trade was rampant. 

Churches’ Acknowledgment of Past Involvement

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These churches, however, are not shying away from their past – many of them have conducted research into their historical ties with the slave trade.

Research on Church Slave Ownership

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Arlington Street Church has, in the past, documented its close ties with the slave trade. Trinity Church, in 2014, put out a comprehensive history of its ties with racism and slavery, with an open call for ways to make reparations.

Efforts to Confront Historical Wrongs

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King’s Chapel undertook research and discovered that over the span of hundreds of years, ministers and church members had collectively owned 219 slaves. 

The Old South Church, too, published a report last year which detailed that church members enslaved over 100 people.

Call for Urgency in Action

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Reverend John Gibbons from Arlington Street Church was at the press conference, and he stated that while many Boston churches have begun researching their history and discussing reparations, “That is not enough.” 

Moving Beyond Research to Implementation

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He explained, “We need to move with some urgency toward action, and so part of what we’re doing is to prod and encourage white churches to go beyond what they have done thus far.”

“40 Acres and a Mule”

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Other religious leaders echoed his comments, with Baptist leader Archbishop Leo Edward stating that the U.S. had failed to provide the “40 acres and a mule” that had been promised to former slaves – which he argues needs to be addressed.

Critiquing The Prison System 

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“You know what is the acres? The prisons! And the mules the prisoners,” he exclaimed.

Reparations Task Force

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Reparations have been a topic of much discussion in Boston over the last few years. In 2022, they set up a Task Force on Reparations, which has worked with a team of researchers to study the impact of slavery in Boston and develop a plan on how to pay out reparations to the city’s residents.

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