By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (March 26, 2002)


The Millions For Reparations Rally that will be held on August 17, 2002 in Washington, D.C. is picking up steam throughout the country. In this connection, let us revisit Dr. John Hope Franklin’s position on reparations as we continue to build the Reparations Movement in America.

Dr. John Hope Franklin, a James B. Duke Professor Emeritus at Duke University, has entered the debate surrounding the David Horowitz ads that have appeared in numerous college newspapers across America entitled, "Ten Reasons Why Reparations for Blacks is a Bad Idea— and Racist Too!"

Dr. Franklin is a well-known and distinguished historian who has written numerous books on Africans in America history and is considered by many to be the leading expert on the period of slavery in American history. His classic book, From Slavery To Freedom, has been read, and continues to be read, around the world. Although many of us in the Pan African /Nationalist Movement have disagreed with some of Dr. Franklin’s interpretations and conclusions of Africans in America history, it must be acknowledged that he has been a superb researcher who has dedicated his life to writing and teaching about the history of African people in this country.

Popular and noted Chicago journalist, Lu Palmer, in the late 1960’s and 70’s through his newspaper columns and radio commentary made famous the slogan, "That’s enough to make a Negro turn Black!" What this slogan exemplified was that often some African people in this country find it hard to identify and support issues that impact on the masses of our people, including the current issue of reparations, until some white person does something so outlandish that it makes the issue crystal clear.

This is not to say that Dr. Franklin has not clearly seen many of the issues that have impacted on African people in this country during his long career as a teacher, professor, and author, but he has not been an outspoken advocate on the question of reparations.

David Horowitz has caused Dr. Franklin, and many others in the African Community in America, to publicly state their opposition to his position against reparations. In fact, the absurdity of Horowitz’s position against reparations has so incensed many African people in America that they are now joining and actively participating in the struggle to intensify the demand for reparations in America. This is witnessed by the student protests against Horowitz’s ads on college campuses.

Let us now examine Dr. Franklin’s open letter to Horowitz that was recently circulated over the Internet. Dr. Franklin points out, "All whites and no slaves benefited from American slavery. All Blacks had no rights that they could claim as their own. All whites, including the vast majority who had no slaves, were not encouraged but authorized to exercise dominion over all slaves, thereby adding strength to the system of control."

Further, Dr. Franklin writes, "If David Horowitz had read James D. DeBow’s, The Interest in Slavery of the Southern Non-Slaveholder, he would not have blundered into the fantasy of claiming that no single group benefited from slavery. Planters did, of course. New York merchants did, of course. Even poor whites benefited from the psychological advantage of having a group beneath them."

On the question of education, Dr. Franklin reaffirms the fact that "laws enacted by states forbade the teaching of Blacks any means of acquiring knowledge— including the alphabet— which is the legacy of disadvantage of educational privatization and discrimination experienced by African Americans in 2001." In this context, Dr. Franklin makes clear the following: "Most living Americans do have a connection with slavery. They have inherited the preferential advantage, if they are white, or the loathsome disadvantage, if they are Black; and those positions are virtually as alive today as they were in the 19th century."

On this point, Dr. Franklin makes it clear that, "The pattern of housing, the discrimination in employment, the resistance to equal opportunity in education, of justice, the low expectation of Blacks in the discharge of duties assigned to them, the widespread belief that Blacks have physical prowess but little intellectual capacities and the widespread opposition to affirmative action, as if that had not been enjoyed by whites for three centuries, all indicate that the vestiges of slavery are still with us."

Finally, Dr. Franklin writes, "And as long as there are pro–slavery protagonists among us, hiding behind such absurdities as we are all in this together or it hurts me as much as it hurts you or slavery benefited you as much as it benefited me, we will suffer from the inability to confront the tragic legacies of slavery and deal with them in a forthright and constructive manner."

Thank you Dr. Franklin for setting the record straight in a clear and concise manner and for providing the kind of rationale that may help many African people in America understand why they should actively join and participate in the Reparations Movement.

One of the ways to do this is to join the Millions For Reparations Rally that will be held on August 17, 2002 in Washington, D.C.!

Let’s keep up the fight for REPARATIONS!

National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)

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