economic inequality

Should the federal government pay reparations to the descendants of slaves?

Yes

Yes

Supports cash payments

Marianne Williamson (Dropped out)

Author

Williamson is no longer running for president. “Yes. The United States has to pay a debt that is owed to the descendants of slaves,” Williamson told The Post. “We should budget $500 billion, over 20 years, to be used at the discretion of a reparations council made up of black leaders from across the spectrum of American academic, cultural and political leaders, for education and economic renewal.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Marianne Williamson
Williamson

Study it

Study it

Supports a commission or other means of determining what form reparations could take

Joe Biden

Former vice president

“We must acknowledge that there can be no realization of the American dream without grappling with the original sin of slavery, and the centuries-long campaign of violence, fear, and trauma wrought upon black people in this country. As president, I will immediately take action to address the systemic racism that is persistent across our institutions today,” Biden told The Post. “That’s why I have developed education, climate change and health-care policies, among others, that will root out this systemic racism and ensure that all Americans have a fair shot at living the American dream. While my administration takes major actions to address systemic racism, it will also study how reparations may be part of those efforts and ensure the voices of descendants are central when gathering data and information.”

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Joe Biden
Biden

Michael Bennet (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Colorado

Bennet is no longer running for president. “I support legislation to study the effects of slavery, Jim Crow, redlining, mass incarceration and other racial injustices,” Bennet told The Post. “We must commit to being the generation that ends racial disparities in education, housing, health, income, wealth, criminal justice and opportunity. I’ve put forward plans to cut child poverty, close the affordable housing gap, integrate communities, make education an engine of opportunity and cover everyone with health insurance to help push toward this essential goal.” He co-sponsored a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations.

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Michael Bennet
Bennet

Cory Booker (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, New Jersey

Booker is no longer running for president. “In the Senate, I have introduced the only reparations bill to ever be introduced in the post-Reconstruction era. My proposal would create a commission to study the ongoing effects of slavery and systemic discrimination and make recommendations on reparations proposals,” Booker told The Post. His campaign clarified that he supports reparations and hopes a commission can provide recommendations on what form they take.

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Cory Booker
Booker

Pete Buttigieg (Dropped out)

Former mayor, South Bend, Ind.

Buttigieg is no longer running for president. “I support creating a commission to study and consider reparations policies for Black Americans, but there are a number of things that we can undertake without waiting for the commission to complete its work,” Buttigieg told The Post. “My Douglass Plan, which is a complement to any potential reparations proposals, aims to provide the scale and scope necessary to pave the way for true nationwide restorative justice with policies that can be implemented right now. This comprehensive set of plans--including proposals on voting rights, education, economic empowerment, and the criminal legal system--is meant to intentionally dismantle racist structures and systems and represent an equally intentional and affirmative investment of unprecedented scale in the freedom and self-determination of Black Americans.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Pete Buttigieg
Buttigieg

Julian Castro (Dropped out)

Former mayor, San Antonio

Castro is no longer running for president. Castro supports a commission for studying reparations, he said in March. "If, under the Constitution, we compensate people because we take their property, why wouldn’t you compensate people who actually were property," Castro said on CNN's "State of the Union."

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Julian Castro
Castro

John Delaney (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Maryland

Delaney is no longer running for president. “We need to take aggressive action to dismantle the systemic racism that exists today as the legacy of centuries of slavery and other forms of racial discrimination, but I’m not certain that cash reparations are the best solution,” Delaney told The Post. “I support Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s bill to create a commission to study and develop reparations proposals.”

Candidate positions highlighted
John Delaney
Delaney

Tulsi Gabbard (Dropped out)

U.S. representative, Hawaii

Gabbard is no longer running for president. Gabbard co-sponsored a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations.

Candidate positions highlighted
Tulsi Gabbard
Gabbard

Kamala D. Harris (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, California

Harris is no longer running for president. Harris co-sponsored a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations.

Candidate positions highlighted
Kamala Harris
Harris

Amy Klobuchar (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Minnesota

Klobuchar is no longer running for president. Klobuchar backed the need to "invest in those communities" when asked about reparations on NBC's "Meet the Press." She co-sponsored a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations.

Candidate positions highlighted
Amy Klobuchar
Klobuchar

Deval Patrick (Dropped out)

Former governor, Massachusetts

Patrick is no longer running for president. “Yes we need to deal with the chronic poverty and marginalization that has been true of an overwhelming number of our people that has its roots in slavery,” Patrick said in South Carolina. “But once the check is written, unless we have reconciliation, unless we have some truth telling about what actually happened, I’m just not sure we’re going to feel satisfied.” His campaign confirmed he wants to study reparations.

Candidate positions highlighted
Deval Patrick
Patrick

Bernie Sanders (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Vermont

Sanders is no longer running for president. “For centuries, America’s economic rise relied on treating millions of black people as literal property. We have still not come to terms with the horrors of legalized slavery and its continuing impacts on our society,” Sanders told The Post. He “is proud to co-sponsor the H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act to finally bring the truth about slavery and it's lasting impact into the open.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Bernie Sanders
Sanders

Joe Sestak (Dropped out)

Former U.S. representative, Pennsylvania

Sestak is no longer running for president. “I support efforts in Congress to establish a commission to examine this issue in detail,” Sestak told The Post. “I believe slavery continues to reverberate in our society in negative ways, and I do favor a proactive approach to creating a more just and equitable society, including a targeted plan with increased funding for improved infrastructure, schools, security, health care, roads and more.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Joe Sestak
Sestak

Tom Steyer (Dropped out)

Billionaire activist

Steyer is no longer running for president. “Yes. A debt is owed to the descendants of formerly enslaved Africans - a debt we have yet to settle as a nation,” Steyer told The Post. “In order to start the process of healing, Americans need to understand that institutional racism has robbed generations of African-American families the ability to acquire and accumulate economic wealth. We are long overdue to have an honest conversation about how this has disadvantaged the black community and fueled inequality. There are still outstanding questions about what form a reparations program would take, who would benefit, and how it would be financed. I support creating a Slavery Reconciliation Commission to analyze the lasting effects of slavery and how to provide redress for the centuries of oppression, rape, torture, and murder inflicted upon generations of African-Americans. This work will be difficult, but necessary, and way overdue.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Tom Steyer
Steyer

Elizabeth Warren (Dropped out)

U.S. senator, Massachusetts

Warren is no longer running for president. “I strongly support legislation to create a commission of experts to provide recommendations to Congress on reparations, including on questions about what kind of reparations are appropriate and how best to provide them. America was built on the backs of slaves and we must acknowledge this history and confront it head-on,” Warren told The Post. She co-sponsored a bill that would establish a commission to study reparations.

Candidate positions highlighted
Elizabeth Warren
Warren

Andrew Yang (Dropped out)

Tech entrepreneur

Yang is no longer running for president. Yang “has publicly stated his support for HR40,” his campaign told The Post. “He believes that this country needs to take steps to repair the damage to the African American community due to centuries of subjugation and inhumanity, followed by still-ongoing racism and systemic problems that lead to lack of opportunity and advancement. We need to figure out how to even get started repairing that damage, and [Yang] believes HR40 is the best first step.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Andrew Yang
Yang

No

No

Does not support cash payments

Steve Bullock (Dropped out)

Governor, Montana

Bullock is no longer running for president. “The promise of this nation has not been equally extended to all, due to historical wrongs like slavery, segregation, redlining and economic discrimination. If we’re going to right historical wrongs for current and future generations, we need real institutional change, not a one-time check,” Bullock told The Post. “My plan is a series of concrete and actionable policy initiatives that address the institutional obstacles that for generations have denied economic mobility to communities of color.”

Candidate positions highlighted
Steve Bullock
Bullock

Unclear/No response

Unclear/No response

Mike Bloomberg (Dropped out)

Former New York mayor

Bloomberg is no longer running for president. Bloomberg did not answer this question by publication.

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Mike Bloomberg
Bloomberg

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Background In January, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex.) introduced H.R. 40, which would create a commission to study the legacy of slavery and create proposals for reparations to African Americans. Democrats generally disagree about whether reparations should take the form of cash payments or targeted improvements to racial equity in housing, employment and other areas. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll from July found 62 percent of the public opposed paying reparations for slavery.

How candidate positions were compiled

The Washington Post sent a detailed questionnaire to every Democratic presidential campaign asking whether it supports various changes to U.S. economic policy. Candidates with similar stances were organized into groups using a combination of those answers, legislative records, action taken in an executive role, and other public comments, such as policy discussion on campaign websites, social media posts, interviews, town hall meetings and other news reports and surveys. See something we missed? Let us know.

This page will update as we learn more about the candidates’ plans. We also will note if candidates change their position on an issue. At initial publication, this page included major candidates who had announced a run for president. If a candidate dropped out after a question was published here, their stance is included under the "Show former candidates" option. If they dropped out before a question was first published, the Post did not reach out to get their stance.

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Candidate illustrations by Ben Kirchner.