By the time Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” was implemented through force, four million Africans and their descendants had been enslaved in the U.S. and its colonies from 1619 to 1865, which played an integral role in leading to and accelerating America’s rise in becoming the “most prosperous country.” With this fact, the original promise implemented by General Sherman, calculations of the “sum total of the worth of all the Black labor stolen through means of slavery, segregation, and contemporary discrimination” ranging from $5 to $24 trillion, and estimates of the original plots given to and then stolen from freed slaves being valued at about $1.5 million each, the time for slave reparations is past overdue when the concept of “unjust enrichment” is pursued as advocated by Randall Robinson, the author of “The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks.”
Accordingly, despite many obstacles, including legal and low support among whites, the slavery reparations movement has been revived and is “gaining momentum.” In 1989, Congressman John Conyers (b. 1929) introduced H.R. 40 “to examine the effects [that slavery and its remnants –] Jim Crow have had on African-Americans since emancipation,” which to date lacks the necessary support required for passage. Next in 2000, based on careful research by Deadria Farmer-Paellmann (b. 1965), an Adjunct Professor of Law at Southern New England School of Law, who discovered evidence that Aetna wrote “policies on the lives of enslaved Africans with slave owners as the beneficiaries,” the company issued an “unprecedented apology” giving birth to the “corporate restitution movement.”
By 2002, nine lawsuits had been filed, the most notable in the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, NY against FleetBoston Financial, CSX (a major railways firm) and Aetna for direct involvement in the slave trade. Currently cases are pending “against 20 companies from the banking, insurance, textile, railroad, and tobacco industries.” At the same time, California and twelve other states have enacted disclosure laws requiring insurance companies doing business within their boundaries to reveal “their role in slavery,” while boycotts are being staged against firms named in the Farmer-Paellmann litigation that are challenging restitution demands.