By Dr. Conrad W. Worrill (May 24, 2003)



            The consolidated reparations lawsuit, originally filed on March 26, 2002 in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York has sparked an unprecedented reparations legal court battle that thousands of African people in America have been inspired to support. The next hearing will be held July 21st in Chicago.

            Since the filing of the March 26th lawsuit, additional reparations lawsuits were filed in New Jersey, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas. The group of lawyers and plaintiffs are called, “The Corporate Restitution Team” led by the law firms of Thomas, Wareham, and Richards of New York and Jean Baptiste and Associates in Chicago.

            In December of 2002, it was announced that these reparations lawsuits would be consolidated before Judge Charles R. Norgle, U. S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, at 219 South Dearborn in Chicago.

            Led by the National Black United Front, Chicago Chapter, under the umbrella of the Millions For Reparations Mobilization Committee, the African Community in Chicago has made history by packing the courtroom in the first two hearings held on February 26 and again, just recently on May 7, 2003. The reparations lawsuits are helping African people throughout the United States, and in fact the world, understand the historical ties that the named corporations have to the slave trade and slavery 137 years ago and how they profited from our enslavement.

            The named corporations in the lawsuit are: Aetna Casualty, Brown Bros. Harriman, Lloyds of London, Williamson-Liggett Group, CSX Corporation, Loews Corp., Westpoint Stevens, R. J. Reynolds Tobacco, J. P. Morgan Chase, New York Life Insurance, FleetBoston, Union Pacific, Lehman Brothers, and Norfolk Southern.

             As the National Secretary of NBUF, Toriono Granger reported on the May 7th hearing, “The purpose of the hearings is to work through some procedural issues, to update the court on the status of the consolidation, and to determine if there is reason to go to trial.”

            Brother Granger further reports, “Since the lawsuits were originally consolidated, additional plaintiffs from California have come forward and now must be consolidated with the other plaintiffs. Motions have been filed to the court by the plaintiffs to preserve the records of the defendants and to prevent the destruction of these records. Motions have also been filed by the attorneys representing the plaintiffs to gain access to these documents so that they may be used to support the case against the corporations. Another pending action in the consolidation is a formalized complaint against the  corporations on behalf of all the plaintiffs.”

            It is clear that the primary strategy of the defendant’s attorneys is to find any legal loophole they can present to the judge that will convince him to throw the case out of court. This is one of the reasons it is so important for the community to continue to mobilize and be present, once again, at the next hearing on Monday, July 21st beginning at 8:30 a.m. for the rally, prior to proceeding to the courtroom at 9:15 a.m. in Chicago.

            As we continue to build the Reparations Movement in America, we must be clear that we are continuing on the path of our ancestors who, from the outset after the Civil War, understood the demand for reparations and began organizing toward that end. We are following in their footsteps.

            In the book, Should America Pay?, edited by Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, the lead plaintiff on this lawsuit, legal researcher, Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, in her chapter writes that her, “…journey toward building a new approach to slavery reparations led me to the largest mass movement for slavery reparations in American history— the ex-slave pension movement. Between 1890 and 1917, over 600,000 of the 4 million emancipated Africans lobbied our government for pensions because they believed their uncompensated labor subsidized the building of the nation’s wealth for two and half centuries. Nashville, Tennessee was the home of this effort, largely led by a Black woman, Callie D. House— the national spokesperson of the Ex-slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association.”

            Even though the federal government “effectively shot down the movement” in 1917, we should learn from this early Reparations Movement as we continue to press for our just demands for reparations.

            We should be reminded of the words of their petition to Congress in 1898 by this early Reparations Movement:

“Whereas, it is a precedent established by patriots of this country to relieve its

distressed citizens, both on land and sea, and millions of our deceased people,

besides those who still survive, worked as slaves for the development of the

great resources and wealth of this country, and Whereas, We believe it is just

and right to grant the ex-slaves a pension.”


            Spread the word and make every effort to be present on Monday, July 21st for the third Reparations Lawsuit Hearing in Chicago, Illinois. Call our offices to get more information.

National Chairman
National Black United Front (NBUF)

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