Skip to comments.Reparations suits fuel debate
Posted on 01/10/2004 9:01:57 AM PST by schaketo
CHICAGO, Jan. 8 (UPI) -- A Chicago man acting as his own lawyer filed a class-action federal suit seeking reparations for the descendants of African-American slaves from 71 defendants, including banks, the tobacco and cotton industries and heads of nations including President George W. Bush and the pope.
"Slavery was and is an illegal criminal business and criminal enterprise," said Bob Brown, co-director of the group Pan-African roots. "First of all our concern is disclosure."
The 183-page lawsuit filed in federal court Wednesday alleges the defendants have not complied with the Chicago Slave Era Disclosure Act, an ordinance passed in 2002, that requires companies doing business with the city to search pre-Civil War records to find out if they or any predecessor entities profited from links to slavery.
The ordinance sponsored by Alderman Dorothy Tillman, a longtime civil rights activist, was passed two years after the City Council held emotional public hearings on slavery and reparations.
Chicago was one of the first big cities to pass an ordinance supporting congressional hearings on reparations. A reparations hearings bill championed by Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., has languished on Capitol Hill for more than a decade.
The suit, the second class action filed, does not seek a specific financial damages. It calls for the defendants to release files and records to account for all profits or benefits that can be traced to slavery and to make restitution.
"We demand restitution. We demand remedy. We demand relief. We demand reparations," said Brown. "And those of us who were stolen from Africa demand the right to return, demand the right to go home."
Brown said the pope and other top church officials were named in his lawsuit because the Roman Catholic Church profited from slave labor in the New World.
Lehman Brothers, an investment house whose founders made their fortune in the slave-intensive cotton industry, was the first contractor to publicly disclose it had owned or profited from slaves.
The company found records indicating the brothers personally owned slaves in Montgomery, Ala., in 1850 and that the company purchased a slave in 1854.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr. is expected to rule on a defense motion to dismiss the first class-action reparations lawsuit filed last year against a dozen investment banks, railroads, insurance, tobacco and textile companies, at a Jan. 26 hearing.
Brown's lawsuit names banks and corporations as well but added the Catholic Church, three heads of governments including the United States and five U.S. governors as defendants.
Reparations movement activists know they are waging an uphill battle for support but said interest in reparations was growing because of the active debate.
More lawsuits are likely around the country.
Since March 2002, five federal suits have filed against firms such as Aetna Inc.; FleetBoston Financial Corp.; and CSX Corp., the railroad giant, seeking unspecified reparations for the 35 million descendants of African slaves.
National Black United Front leader Conrad Worrill, professor of education and history at Northeastern Illinois University, explains in a guest column in Nation of Islam newspaper, The Final Call, the lawsuit strategy would provide "historians and their experts (an opportunity to) show without difficulty, how the invasions of African territories, the mass capture of Africans, the horrors of the Middle Passage, the chattelization of Africans in America, and the extermination of the language and culture of the transported Africans, constituted violations of all these international laws."
Critics say 140 years have passed since legal slavery was ended by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation Jan. 1, 1863, too long to hold living Americans responsible for the acts of their ancestors.
Immigrants say they are not responsible for slavery and should not have to pay reparations.
Supporters counter arguing reparations have been paid to Japanese-Americans interred during World War II and to Jewish Holocaust survivors and slave laborers exploited by Nazi Germany.
African-Americans as a group continue to suffer racial discrimination and remain behind whites in virtually every social indicator, with lower average incomes, shorter life expectancies, higher incarceration rates, poorer health and less education as the result of 300 years of slavery and 100 years peonage and Jim Crow and de facto segregation.
Poor blacks are more likely to be affected by crime and less likely to have two-parent families.
Reparations can be problematical for African-Americans as well as whites. There is no denying progress has been made in closing the racial divide over the past 35 years.
We live in a time when a black woman can reign as Miss America without many people even raising an eyebrow. Affirmation action has helped minorities earn college degrees and begin professional lives but more than one-third still live in poverty.
Successful blacks will say they want their "40 acres and a mule" not for themselves but for education and healthcare programs for others.
Deciding who is entitled to reparations would be a legal nightmare. Presumably recipients would have to prove they had ancestors who were slaves. Some would have no problem doing so, but others would have no idea where to begin tracing ancestry. What about mixed-race children, would they be entitled to half compensation? Should African counties be compensated for the abduction of million of Africans, even through tribal chiefs willingly participated in the slave trade?
"Public opinion is moving more and more toward at least admitting that reparations should be investigated," Robert T. Starks, political science professor at Northeastern Illinois University's Center for Inner City Studies, told the Chicago Sun-Times. "Ten years ago, people weren't even open to looking at it."
The U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, declared the trans-Atlantic slave trade and slavery a crime against humanity in 2001 and said reparations were owed to African people.
Tillman has convened two national reparations conferences in Chicago since 2000 and lawyers working with the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America, the National United Black Front, the December 12th Movement and other groups have provided research for reparations lawsuits.
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Meet the Plaintiff/Barrister.
I am all in favor of giving him a one-way ticket to Africa and anyone else who wants to go. I really didn't even know they did not have the right to go home. Learn something everyday....
For these mathematically challenged 'plaintiffs', I'll point out once again that slavery existed in The United States of America from July 4,1776 (if you go by the Declaration of Independence) to January 1, 1863 (Emancipation Proclamation). The result is approx 86 1/2 years, NOT 300, you jerks!
But see, they - the race-baiters, have one little problem, to wit; This reparation tactic was recently attempted in the British Courts and was SUMMARILY thrown out with prejudice. The British court found that since SLAVERY WAS LEGAL at the time, there was no crime and as such, reparations are not due - period. End of that nonsense.
So now they're attempting it here. But if it eventually goes to SCOTUS, and if these 'justices' remain consistent with recent rulings by 'looking to other law decisions in europe' (as Ginsburg said), they're toast.
BTW, I like the way Dorothy Tillman is now described as "an activist" - as she used to be labeled as a 'gadfly' in Chicago politics.
Oh, and I'm also for donating a buck or two to send them back, if they so wish!
MY concern is honesty, you fake, phony fraud!
Not to mention that those who were enslaved have been dead the better part of a century.Judge dismisses slavery lawsuitThe lawsuit was first filed in U.S. District Court in New York in 2002 and later moved to Chicago. The lawsuit names companies such as the Lehman Brothers brokerage firm, Aetna Insurance and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco, saying they or their corporate ancestors made money off slavery. Lawsuits filed across the country seeking reparations for slavery have been combined into a single court action. Andrew McGaan, an attorney representing Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., one of the defendants, said... the judge had agreed "with what appears to be every ground that we raised." ...As for the timing, [U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle] said, the plaintiffs had failed to show how the wrongs cited in the lawsuit fall within the statute of limitations.
by Mike Robinson
"And those of us who were stolen from Africa demand the right to return, demand the right to go home."Odd. The Jews returned home to Israel, yet neither Jesse Jackson (alleged Christian, alleged minister) nor the Nation of Islam (alleged Moslems) supports their efforts.
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