Any new constitution for the state of South Carolina should include reparations for the descendents of slaves, one Democratic state senator is arguing.

Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said Monday he would push to include reparations in any discussion of changing the state’s 123-year-old constitution, as some of his colleagues in the S.C. Legislature have called for.

“If the door is opened for a constitutional convention, last amended in 1895 to systematically disenfranchise African-Americans, I plan to introduce the subject of reparations for the descendants of slaves who built this state providing free labor,” Kimpson tweeted.

Kimpson didn’t specify what form reparations should take, but activists have long argued African Americans deserve some kind of compensation for the generations their ancestors worked without pay or any chance to acquire wealth and property under slavery, a condition that has left their descendants at an economic disadvantage.

Several freshmen legislators announced plans last week to call a new constitutional convention, with the intent of moving power from the Legislature to the governor’s office. They hope the move increases accountability and breaks what they see as the hold of a few powerful lawmakers over state government.

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But the overhaul effort soon ran into trouble, as state Democratic leaders claimed the convention could be used to restrict women’s rights in the Palmetto State. Kimpson’s proposal adds another potential item to the agenda of any convention to rewrite the constitution.

South Carolina’s current constitution was written in the aftermath of Reconstruction. In 1895, avowed white supremacist and then-U.S. Sen. “Pitchfork Ben” Tillman called a constitutional convention to enact “the sole cause of our being here,” namely to deny voting rights to blacks.

Tillman played on the fear that blacks could eventually yield a powerful vote and perhaps win the governorship. The state’s governors have complained about their limited powers ever since.

Bristow Marchant: 803-771-8405, @BristowatHome, @BuzzAtTheState


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