Detroit Contractors Must Tell Slave Past
Ordinance requires full disclosure, but will not ban any from city jobs
Natalie Y. Moore, The Detroit News, Jun. 25
DETROIT — The Detroit City Council has passed a largely symbolic ordinance that would require contractors who want to do business with the city to disclose whether their companies profited from slavery.
Chicago, Los Angeles and Wayne County have enacted similar laws. Detroit’s ordinance says contractors must search their backgrounds, and then sign an affidavit divulging investments and income from the slave industry.
“It has been quite a long time since African-Americans were promised 40 acres and a mule. This ordinance only provides for the beginning of that process by requiring full disclosure,” said Barbara-Rose Collins, sponsor of the ordinance.
Companies with slave ties would not be banned from city contracts, but any with a falsified slave history would have contracts voided. The ordinance will take effect within seven days. Councilwoman JoAnn Watson has said that volunteer lawyers are committed to researching companies.
Critics say only a few companies that earned money from slavery still exist and that the measure creates more red tape for businesses.
Wednesday’s vote on the ordinance was unanimous with Kenneth Cockrel Jr. not present. Despite her affirmative vote, Councilwoman Kay Everett had previously expressed concern about the ordinance’s purpose.
“We have so much more important things to do. Our focus should not just be on our racial issues,” Everett said.
Elder Eykkeo’, 65, of Detroit said this ordinance moves blacks a step closer to receiving reparations.
“I support my ancestors. There’s accountability involved in this,” he said. “Our ancestors have been crying for this resolution for many centuries.”