Wu and Reparations Task Force Seek Partners For Research on History and Legacy of Slavery in Boston

Special to the Times-Free Press

Mayor Michelle Wu and the City of Boston Reparations Task Force announced the release of a request for proposals (RFP) seeking researchers to study the history and legacy of slavery in Boston. Through the RFP, the City will select partners to produce a report on the City’s role in and historical ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and the history and legacy of slavery, including original historical research and a comprehensive review of the secondary literature. The RFP and more information on how to apply can be found here.

“To help our communities heal from the legacies of slavery and the systems of exclusion and injustice that persist today, it is essential that the City fully document the City of Boston’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I urge researchers to apply to this RFP and join Boston in our commitment to deliver justice for Black residents and bring equitable solutions to our City.”

“The Reparations Task Force is pleased to be able to address its responsibility by issuing the Request for Proposals,” said Joseph D. Feaster, Jr., Chair of the Reparations Task Force. “I have full confidence that the RFP enables us to choose the best research partners who will clearly and honestly document our City’s history. I thank the Reparations Task Force members who were involved in the process of building the RFP, City officials, and the community for assisting us in this effort and look forward to the work ahead.” 

“There’s an opportunity with this Request for Proposals not only to identify historically what has been collected and documented in the archive, in plain view, about our history, and prior attempts to erase it,” said L’Merchie Frazier, a member of the Reparations Task Force, “but also to excavate a continuum of identity and a continuum of property relations–one that continues to be complex in nature as we grapple with four centuries of suffering and resistance. This RFP will help us bring in the thinking of people who will rigorously present that historical fact, with the lens of restoration.”

The City seeks to award six contracts through this RFP. One contract will be awarded for each of the six (6) “units of study” covered by the report, as follows: Boston and Bostonians’ economic growth and involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and trans-Atlantic slave economies during (1) 1620-1690, (2) 1690-1750, and (3) 1750-1800; Boston and Bostonians’ economic growth and involvement in the trans-Atlantic slave trade and trans-Atlantic slave economies and their legacies during (4) 1800-1860; and the economic, social, and political legacies of the trans-Atlantic slave trade and trans-Atlantic slave economies during (5) 1860-1940 and (6) 1940-Present.

Candidates may apply to as many units of study as desired, but must submit separate proposals for each unit of study they intend to cover. The City hopes to not only thoroughly review and document historical findings on the City’s role in the history and legacy of slavery, but also to tell this story in a way that has never been told before. Research partners will be expected to produce both an original historical narrative and a comprehensive literature review of major themes and events for each unit of study for which they are awarded a contract. Partners will weave together work across units of study to create a thorough accounting of the City of Boston’s role in the history and legacy of slavery spanning from 1620 to the present. 

The City also recognizes the importance of partnering with the community to properly build a shared understanding of the City’s history. In addition to their writing and research work, selected research partners will be expected to present an update about their findings prior to the publication of the report during a meeting of the Reparations Task Force, with the opportunity for community members to engage with that ongoing work. 

Candidates will be evaluated based on the quality of their research proposal; the capacity of their plan to complete their research and understanding of the topic area of historical inquiry and relevant source material; their research background, expertise, and experience relevant to the specific time period they have applied to cover, the major themes over the course of the whole history being accounted for, and the specific connections between the history and the legacy of slavery as it relates to their chosen time period(s); past projects relevant to the objectives of the RFP and Task Force; their experience with community-engaged historical methods; their commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the composition of their team; and the quality of the candidate’s interview/presentation. 

“The impacts of colonization and the dehumanization of people are still experienced by our Black residents in every industry throughout the world,” said Mariangely Solis Cervera, Chief of Equity and Inclusion. “In Boston, under the leadership of Mayor Wu, we are taking a step towards a more just world by confronting our history. We encourage leaders in other industries to do the same.”

“Together, the Task Force and Mayor Wu have taken another deliberate step forward in both acknowledging and addressing Boston’s role in the trans-Atlantic slave trade,” said Segun Idowu, Chief of Economic Opportunity and Inclusion. “As the City played a leading role in advancing the trading of human beings from the African continent and the oppression of their offspring, the launch of this significant request for proposals is an effort to become a model for cities across the nation on how to appropriately move the conversation on reparations forward.”

“This announcement is a significant milestone that speaks to the recognition of hate, of harms, of trauma, of oppression, and of economic injustices rooted in slavery,” said Lori Nelson, Senior Advisor for Racial Justice. “It reflects this administrations’ commitment to fully acknowledge these harms and to take bold action that demonstrates truth and reconciliation.  The Task Force and Black residents have begun to write a new chapter in Boston’s history pages.”

The City of Boston established the Reparations Task Force in accordance with a 2022 City Ordinance to study the impact of slavery in Boston. Members of the task force were announced in February 2023. 

The Task Force’s process in developing recommendations to the Mayor will take place in three phases: 1) Research and document the City’s role in and historical ties to the Transatlantic slave trade and legacies of chattel slavery through the publication of a report 2) Assess the impact of the City’s actions to date to address the legacy of slavery 3) Make final recommendations for the City for Truth, Reconciliation, and Reparations addressing the City’s involvement with the trans-Atlantic slave trade. The research partner or partners for the RFP will support the Task Force during Phase 1 through their comprehensive historical report. 

An optional bidder’s conference, a public meeting designed such that anyone interested can ask questions about the RFP, will take place on October 12th, 2023 at 2:00 p.m.. To join, please use this link: https://bit.ly/3EL9adB (Passcode: 560740). The deadline to submit questions regarding the RFP is October 20, 2023.

The deadline to submit proposals for the request is November 6, 2023 at 3:00 p.m. Please email [email protected] with any questions or communications concerning the RFP.

Proposers will need to register with the City as a “vendor” or “supplier” in order to submit an application electronically and, if selected, be paid by the City. Please visit boston.gov/departments/procurement/how-use-supplier-portal for step-by-step instructions to register as a new vendor and more.

Additional information, requirements, terms and conditions, and all other related information is set forth in the RFP documents on the City’s Reparations Task Force homepage.

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