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

As the mobilization escalates throughout the country for the upcoming Millions For Reparations Rally that will be held in Washington, D. C., on August 17, 2002, it is imperative that we seek continued clarity on the Reparation Movement’s just demands for Reparations on behalf of African people in America.

Reparations, which comes from the Latin word reparare meaning repair, is a Movement, which seeks to identify and redress those wrongs, so that the countries and people that suffered will enjoy full freedom to continue their own development on more equal terms. In this context, when we talk about Reparations for African people in America, we are addressing reparations for the forced slave labor and destruction of humanity, culture, legacies, names, language that was disrupted by the forceful imposition and violent intrusion of white slave traders, slave merchants, and white captive slaveowners.

It is without argument that African people in America were captured, transported to, and enslaved in the United States by white people. We were turned into chattel and worked for more than 300 years without pay, or other compensation. For the value of our labor, white people criminally appropriated the services of slaves and their labor. The profits were then passed on through inheritance to their families and children. This process helped create the United States of America.

At the conclusion of the Civil War, the original Freedman’s Bureau Act, passed by Congress on March 3, 1865, granted land "to every male citizen, whether refugee or freedman, as aforesaid, there shall be assigned not more than forty acres of such land, and the person to whom it was so assigned shall be protected in the use and enjoyment of the land for the term of three years at an annual rent not exceeding six per centum the value of such land…At the end of said term, or at any time during said term, the occupants of any parcels so assigned may purchase land…"

The following month, five days after the Confederacy’s surrender, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. His successor, Andrew Jackson, vetoed an amended Freedman’s Bureau Act in February 1866, which still called for "loyal refugees and freedman," but changed the terms so the bureau’s commissioner could determine the cost of rent and returning whites could repossess their Black owned land.

The Freedman’s Bureau Act that finally became law in July 1866 made no mention of forty acres. To the contrary, it called for restoring land— about 850,000 acres of abandoned and confiscated real estate— to former white owners, many of who had been accused of being traitors to the Union, but were pardoned by President Johnson.

The current phase of the Reparations Movement is connected to the leadership of Sister Callie House of Tennessee, who founded the National Ex Slave and Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association in the 1890’s in reaction to the "40 acres and mule" sell out. Her principal associate in this work for about a decade was the Reverend Isiah H. Dickerson. During this period, working through meetings, literature, and traveling agents, the organization successfully developed membership across the South. The Association’s principal office was in Nashville, Tennessee, but they maintained a press operative in Washington, D.C.

The objective of Sister House’s organization was to organize a demand throughout the African Community in this country to force the United States to provide the needed, as well as deserved pensions they sought for the aging persons formerly held in slavery, their surviving spouses, care givers, and heirs. United States officials indicted Ms. House and a number of other members, at Nashville, with fraud for using the mail to distribute one of the Associations’ carefully drawn leaflets. She was found guilty and sentenced to a year and a day in the federal prison at Jefferson City. This was October 1917. We should honor the great Reparations leadership of Callie House and acknowledge that the National Ex Slave and Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association was the first massed based Reparations Movement in this country under her leadership.

It is in this spirit of understanding of our history that we seek clarity. We must be clear that the current reparations movement, in part, is a project, "for all of our African ancestors who perished in this Holocaust of Enslavement / Maafa in the Americas and in Africa. To those who resignedly accepted their uncertain fate. To those who refused to submit and were tortured. To those who attempted to escape and were killed [murdered]. To those who were defiant, their shouts pierced the courtyards of these slave dungeons until death spared them of a life ignominy."

Join the organizing for the historic Millions For Reparations Rally. You will be participating in making history.

National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)

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