On Tuesday, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law that moves forward the process of reparations in the state. The new legislation creates a reparations commission for New York to explore policies that could be implemented in the state to address the long legacy of slavery and racial disparities.

During the signing ceremony, the Democratic governor spoke about the difficult truth of slavery in New York’s history, acknowledging, “Our state flourished from that slavery,” adding, “It’s not a beautiful story, but indeed it is the truth.” Having owned up to the legacy that slavery had in New York, Hochul went on to call on the state’s residents “to be the patriots and rebuke and not excuse our role in benefitting from the institution of slavery.” 

The Rev. Al Sharpton was in attendance as Hochul signed the bill into law, telling those gathered, “You cannot heal unless you deal with the wounds” of slavery, adding that “This bill will put a commission together to be healing the wounds.” Sharpton touted the creation of the commission as a momentous development. “Only those that have seen people marginalized for even raising the issue can understand the historic significance of today,” he said.

The creation of the reparations commission comes at a key historical anniversary. As 1619 Project founder Nikole Hannah-Jones noted in a tweet, 2024 will mark the 400th anniversary of the beginning of slavery in what is now New York state.

As reported by The New York Times, the newly signed bill authorizes the governor and the New York State Legislature to appoint nine people to the new task force, which will examine the impact of not only slavery, which legally existed in New York from 1624 until 1827, but also later injustices such as mass incarceration and housing discrimination. The task force will deliver a report with recommended remedies, which the state government can accept, reject or modify. The governor has acknowledged budgetary concerns that could limit the resources available for a reparations policy. Additionally, Republican New York Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt has signaled opposition to a reparations plan.

Despite potential obstacles, New York is moving forward as the third state to create a reparations commission, following in the footsteps of California and Illinois. Other efforts have happened at a city level in locations such as Evan, Illinois, which has implemented reparations policies through housing grants, and San Francisco, which has suggested large cash payments to eligible Black residents. And other cities, such as Atlanta, are also beginning to explore reparations options.

With this momentum at the state and local level, New York’s creation of its reparations committee marks the latest step forward in the long push for reparations. While much work remains in the face of potential roadblocks, New York is poised to acknowledge and seek to redress, finally, the long legacy of slavery and racism in the state.