Slavery Reparations: Past Overdue
By William Sutherland
The annals of history are stained by an undeniable era of darkness; though the genocide remains unspoken, trivialized and sanitized �?Africans and persons of color were the victims of an unimaginable holocaust that spanned 400 years costing between 50 and 100 million lives.
Cities and villages were burned and razed, cultural treasures and technological contributions were ravaged and destroyed; a continent was raped �?her youth and potential stolen, her resources exploited, a history was erased and a people denied their purpose and worth.
Born royalty, princes and princesses were stripped of their birthright, and they with their people robbed of God’s priceless gifts of freedom, dreams and aspirations.
With their dignity stripped, their beauty and worth denied, and families cruelly torn apart, a proud people were made outcasts in hostile, foreign lands and reduced to material property to labor and toil by an unenlightened society. Bound in chains, an innocent people were stuffed in squalid ship holes to die of hunger and sickness, to drown in ferocious storms or to survive to live an existence of degradation and hell�?/I>
When Union forces captured the South in 1865 and put a formal end to slavery and its cruel and degrading practices, President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) and the federal government focused on restitution and reconstruction. The earliest reparations plan offered each freed slave 40 acres of land and a mule to work this land.
Under the auspices of this plan, General William Sherman (1820-1891) “set aside tracts of land in the sea islands around Charleston, SC�?B> exclusively for freed slaves. Within a short time, about �?0,000 freed slaves [had been] settled on 400,000 acres in Georgia and South Carolina.�?B>
However, when President Lincoln was assassinated, his successor, Andrew Johnson (1808-1875), a southerner from North Carolina, rescinded the federal government’s promise and reversed the reparations program. Former slaves were then evicted from their new lands that reverted back to white ownership. Despite Johnson’s opposition, Congressman Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868) made a feeble attempt in 1867 proposing an unsuccessful bill that again called for distributing land to freed slaves.
Ten years later, when reconstruction ended followed by the passage of repressive, restrictive laws (e.g. Jim Crow) and the formation of white terrorist groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in the south, plans to address “the atrocities of slavery�?and compensate its victims were forgotten. Afterwards, African-Americans saw little justice, were denied their constitutional rights, and subjected to terrorism (e.g. the entire town of Rosewood, FL was destroyed in January 1923 by white mobs while local officials sworn to uphold the law watched and even participated, leaving up to 80 black men, women, and children dead) and illegal lynching for nearly 100 years until the Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s finally liberated them.