Calif. Ordinance Requires Contractors to Reveal 19th Cent. Slave Trade Ties

July 25, 2005

Contractors doing business with Oakland have until Oct. 1 to disclose whether they participated in the 19th-century slave trade, under an ordinance adopted by the City Council.

Companies who provide insurance, financial and other services must reveal whether they or their parent companies bought or sold slaves, or had other ties such as loaning money used to buy slaves.

The ordinance also sets up a voluntary fund for college scholarships for underprivileged teenagers as well as economic development aid to blighted areas of the city.

Officials in nearby Berkeley passed a similar measure this summer requiring financial and insurance institution to disclose ties to slavery.

The U.S. Civil War fought from 1861-1865 smashed the Confederate slave-holding society of the U.S. southern states.

A 5-year-old state law sponsored by former state senator Tom Hayden requires insurance companies doing business in California to release information about policies they or their predecessors wrote on slaves.

Two years after that law was enacted, Chicago passed a similar ordinance that addressed links to investments in slavery or loans involving slaves pledged as collateral.

Subsequently, J.P. Morgan Chase disclosed that two banks took possession of more than 1,250 slaves because of defaults on loans it made to Louisiana in the 1800s. The bank apologized and established a $5 million (euro4.12 million) scholarship fund for blacks in Louisiana.

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