Just three years ago, the City of Evanston became the first documented governmental body in the country to enact a sustained policy of reparations for the harm done to Black citizens.

What follows is information about the city’s historic reparations program, its roots and how it has developed over the years.

It’s a story in multiple parts: The origin of reparations in Evanston, which was posted previously, a year of local reparations in Evanston 2021-2022, seen below, and a look at how reparations are funded.

How did Evanston residents qualify for the Restorative Housing program?

To qualify for the Restorative Housing program, Black Evanstonians must fit one of three categories: 

  1. Residents who lived in the city between 1919 and 1969, referred to as “ancestors.” 
  2. Direct descendants of a Black resident from 1919 to 1969.
  3. Residents who submitted evidence they suffered housing discrimination due to the city’s policies or practices after 1969.

In October, the Reparations Committee created a partnership with the Evanston Public Library to help residents, especially elders, locate documents proving residency in Evanston between 1919 and 1969. The application window has since closed. 

How have nongovernmental organizations helped advance Evanston’s reparations?

Several nongovernmental organizations have contributed to the growing momentum of the local movement. 

Former Council Member Robin Rue Simmons is the founder and Executive Director of First Repair, an organization that helps teach other municipalities around the country about beginning a reparations movement. In December 2021, First Repair and the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) invited state and local reparations leaders from across the states to Evanston to exchange ideas about movement-building at a three-day symposium

Dearborn Realtist Board, a historically Black real estate organization, partnered with the City of Evanston on two occasions for daylong workshops teaching local residents about the benefits of home ownership and the home-buying process to prepare residents to receive housing grants.

The interfaith community in Evanston was the first local nongovernmental institution to commit to reparations and has hosted multiple conferences over the past few years to speak out in favor of reparations and help community members understand that reparations are a part of each faith’s core belief system.

Read more about other community efforts to atone for anti-Black discrimination here and here.

Have local reparations been dispersed, and to whom?

On Jan. 13, the names of the first 16 recipients of $25,000 housing reparations grants were pulled in a random draw from among the 122 ancestor applicants. The 16 selected have already started receiving their housing grants. Other ancestors, who were ranked from 17 to 122, are slated to receive their $25,000 grants incrementally as more marijuana tax revenue accumulates in the fund. 

Ramona Burton, Kenneth Wideman, Paul Wilson and Louis Weathers are four of the inaugural 16 reparations recipients. (Click on their names to read their stories.)

So far, 470 residents have applied under the direct descendent category and as of the July 13 Reparations Committee meeting, the city had completed a review of those applications, verifying 354 and following up on the others.

The Restorative Housing program is only the first stage in the local reparations effort, and the committee is expected to begin discussing new programs in the coming months. 

As part of another effort to recognize Black history in Evanston, four out of eight African American heritage sites have been unveiled so far in 2022, with four more to go. So far the sidewalk markers honor Maria Murray, Evanston’s first documented Black resident; Evanston’s first segregated hospital; Edwin B. Jourdain, Evanston’s first Black council member; and Lorraine H. Morton, the city’s first Black Mayor. 

What does local dissent around the program look like?

In April 2022, Rue Simmons and Mayor Daniel Biss spoke at Temple Jeremiah in Northfield, a nearby suburb, on the topic of reparations.

At the event, Biss said that most local critics do not disagree with reparations on a fundamental level but instead believe the city’s approach isn’t the correct one.

Read this RoundTable article to hear some opinions of local leaders either in favor of or against the program. 

How much money has been collected so far in the fund?

As of the July 13 Reparations Committee meeting, $35,544 had been donated to the city’s reparations fund. 

The city cannot report revenue from recreational cannabis sales because of an Illinois state law prohibiting cities from publicly doing so unless there’s a minimum of five dispensaries. To do so would be a breach of confidentiality under state law. 

Therefore, it is not possible for the RoundTable to determine how much the city has collected in tax money from recreational marijuana sales.

For more information on national and local reparations programs, visit:

What are reparations?
City of Evanston Reparations

Jasper Davidoff contributed to the timeline.

Debbie-Marie Brown

Debbie-Marie Brown is a reporter and Racial Justice Fellow at the Evanston RoundTable. They cover the local reparations initiative, Black life in Evanston, and the 5th ward. Contact Debbie-Marie at dmb@evanstonroundtable.com...

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  1. I’m grateful for the article on Evanston Reparation’s, the first of its kind in the United States. It has been a pleasure to be part of a prodigious work that has been widely accepted and supported by the Congressional Black Caucus, the Thurgood Marshall Law School at Howard University, Columbia University, N’Cobra and NAARC (leading Black Reparations movements) and over 100 towns and cities throughout the nation seeking to begin their own reparation programs. While we have learned as we move forward, what a privilege to be on the right side of history…for a change.

  2. This article is a very sad commentary about a fake reparations program. When the idea of local reparations was discussed no Black Evanstonian would have imagined the farce of this program and its imaginary impact. The fact that it continues to masquerade as a so called reparations program is due to the power of White Supremacy. The sweeping power to continue a narrative that simply isn’t true, while ignoring the ethical and possibly illegal conflicts of interest presented within the article itself is troubling. I can only take comfort in the fact that the Evanston Program has not gained national traction because others outside of our community recognize the grift. It’s deeply disappointing to watch some well meaning individuals support a phantom reparations program.

  3. A big thank you to Debbie-Marie Brown for consistently and persistently excellent reporting on the city’s reparations programs.