Sept. 30 (UPI) -- California became the first state to adopt a law seeking to develop a path to pay reparations to Black residents and descendants of slaves.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed the law mandating a nine-person committee that will study and develop proposals for reparations.
"Our past is one of slavery, racism and injustice. Our systems were built to oppress people of color," Newsom wrote on Twitter. "It's past time we acknowledge that."
Newsom and other legislative leaders will appoint the committee which will conduct a sweeping examination of slavery in California and the United States as well as its lasting consequences and recommend what kind of compensation should be provided and who should receive it.
"As a nation, we can only truly thrive when every one of us has the opportunity to thrive. Our painful history of slavery has evolved into structural racism and bias built into and permeating throughout or democratic and economic institutions," said Newsom.
The law states that 4 million African people and their descendants were enslaved in the United States from 1619 to 1865.
California was founded as a free state in 1850, but several laws allowed for residents to maintain slaves if they lived in California temporarily or bought slaves before it obtained statehood.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, the chair of California's Legislative Black Caucus and the author of the bill, said the legislation was written last year prior to nationwide protests sparked initially by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"This is not just because of the circumstances we face. What happened is that, of course, those circumstances reinforced the fact that what we were saying all along was true," said Weber, a Democrat representing San Diego." Some think we're just responding to the moment, but we're responding to the history of California and the life of Black people in California and this nation."Sign up for our daily Top News Newsletter