Sheila Jackson Lee
U.S. Representative from Texas
- We view the path of the present administration as corroding the international standards the United States had as a negotiator, a mediator and a compromiser for good. Frankly, we lost our way. We did not allow the UN inspectors to proceed in completing their work and did not allow a vigorous international debate before the decision was made to go into Iraq. There were those of us who voted ‘No’ even based upon the overwhelming evidence that this administration tried to present. We have come to the understanding that much of what the members of Congress heard was misrepresenting and misleading. So, that counters what we have been known for in the United States and that is our diplomacy, our willingness to listen, our ability to negotiate.
- The minority must have involvement in society. You can have different cultural practices that you accept. But if you are going to adopt democracy in government, then the government itself must allow the minority to be heard.
- As quoted in an interview by Rami Eljundi in World Internet News (26 April 2006)
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee Statement on the Historic Hearing on H.R. 40 - a Bill to Establish a Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African Americans (19 June 2019)Edit
- Four hundred years ago, ships set sail from the west coast of Africa and in the process, began one of mankind’s most inhumane practices: human bondage and slavery. For two centuries, human beings – full of hopes and fears, dreams and concerns, ambition and anguish – were transported onto ships like chattel, and the lives of many forever changed. The reverberations from this horrific series of acts – a transatlantic slave trade that touched the shores of a colony that came to be known as America, and later a democratic republic known as the United States of America – are unknown and worthy of exploration. Approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865.
- The institution of slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the Government of the United States from 1789 through 1865. American Slavery is our country’s original sin and its existence at the birth of our nation is a permanent scar on our country’s founding documents, and on the venerated authors of those documents, and it is a legacy that continued well into the last century. The framework for our country and the document to which we all take an oath describes African Americans as three-fifths a person. The infamous Dred Scott decision of the United States Supreme Court, issued just a few decades later, described slaves as private property, unworthy of citizenship. And, a civil war that produced the largest death toll of American fighters in any conflict in our history could not prevent the indignities of Jim Crow, the fire hose at lunch counters and the systemic and institutional discrimination that would follow for a century after the end of the Civil War.
- The mythology built around the Civil War—that victory by the North eradicated slavery and all of its vestiges throughout our nation—has obscured our discussions of the impact of chattel slavery and made it difficult to have a national dialogue on how to fully account for its place in American history and public policy. While it is nearly impossible to determine how the lives touched by slavery could have flourished in the absence of bondage, we have certain datum that permits us to examine how a subset of Americans – African Americans – have been affected by the callousness of involuntary servitude. We know that in almost every segment of society – education, healthcare, jobs and wealth – the inequities that persist in America are more acutely and disproportionately felt in Black America.
- Reparations are ultimately about respect and reconciliation — and the hope that one day, all Americans can walk together toward a more just future. We owe it to those who were ripped from their homes those many years ago an ocean away; we owe it to the millions of Americans- yes they were Americans – who were born into bondage, knew a life of servitude, and died anonymous deaths, as prisoners of this system. We owe it to the millions of descendants of these slaves, for they are the heirs to a society of inequities and indignities that naturally filled the vacuum after slavery was formally abolished 154 years ago. Today represents the first time in history that the House of Representatives will host a hearing on H.R. 40.
- It is perhaps fitting that the hearing occurs on the 19th of June, also known to many in this room, as Juneteenth – the day that, 154 years ago, General Gordon Granger rode into Galveston, Texas and announced the freedom of the last American slaves; belatedly freeing 250,000 slaves in Texas nearly two and a half years after Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. Juneteenth was first celebrated in the Texas state capital in 1867 under the direction of the Freedmen's Bureau. Juneteenth was and is a living symbol of freedom for people who did not have it. Today, Juneteenth remains the oldest known celebration of slavery's demise. It commemorates freedom while acknowledging the sacrifices and contributions made by courageous African Americans towards making our great nation the more conscious and accepting country that it has become.
- And let me end as I began, noting that this year is the 400th commemoration of the 1619 arrival of the first captive Africans in English North America, at Point Comfort, Virginia. With those dates as bookends to today’s hearing, let us proceed with the cause of this morning with a full heart, with the knowledge that this work will take time and trust. Let us also do so with the spirit of reconciliation and understanding that this bill represents.”