10 Things to Know About Conrad Worrill And His Fight For Reparations

10 Things to Know About Conrad Worrill And His Fight For Reparations

Conrad Worrill and his fight for reparations: 10 things to know about the educator, activist and author who spent his life pushing for equality and empowerment for Black people in America. Image by Autumn Keiko

Conrad Worrill has spent his life pushing for equality and empowerment for Blacks in America, and especially for reparations. 

Born in Pasadena, California, Worrill grew up in Chicago and went on to become an activist and scholar with a focus on advancing “the cause and concept of African independence and self-determination both in the United States and internationally,” NBC Chicago reported.

Worrill also did a stint in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan. During this time, he read extensively about African-American history, culture, and politics. When he returned to Chicago in 1963, Worrill attended George Williams College, graduating in 1968. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin.

Dr. Worrill took a position teaching at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1976, where was the coordinator and professor of inner-city studies education. He is currently the director of the program.

Worril entered into politics when in 1983 he began organizing to elect Chicago’s first Black mayor, Harold Washington. During this period Worrill co-founded the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment. 

Worrill is also the elected economic development commissioner of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA). 

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Here are 10 things to know about Worrill’s fight for reparations.

Geneva Genocide Gathering

Worrill headed to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997 in his fight for Reparations for America’s slave descendants. He traveled with a delegation to formally charging the U.S. government with genocide and human right violations before the Commission on Human Rights. “The delegation presented the commission with a “Declaration of Genocide by the United States Government Against the Black Population in the United States” with 157,000 signatures,” NBC Chicago reported.

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Worrill’s World

Worrill wrote a syndicated weekly column called “Worrill’s World,” which ran in a variety of  African-American newspapers across the country. He used the column to promote the concept of slave reparations

He Said

Among the things Worrill has said, is  “What happened to African people has never been repaired.”

Filing Suit

“In 2002 a group of African-Americans filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago demanding restitution from JP Morgan Chase, Aetna, CSX, and other corporations with links to slavery before the Civil War,” The Chicago Reader reported. Worrill played a major role in the suit.

The lawsuit wanted the companies to publicly reveal all of their predecessors’ ties to slavery as well as establish a trust fund for the descendants of slaves. 

“But in 2005, the suit was dismissed by a federal judge who ruled that the plaintiffs couldn’t show they’d been personally affected by the companies they’d sued. The judge also went out of his way to declare that the United States had already paid reparations in the form of the Civil War and civil rights legislation,” The Chicago Reader reported.

Catching On

“In my travels around the country, I’ve found that the issue of reparations has penetrated the spirit and interest of African people in America in all walks of life. For those of us who have been organizing and advocating reparations for African people in America, specifically, and for African people throughout the world since the 1960s, the question becomes what does this current phase of the Reparations Movement mean for the redemption and salvation of African people?” questioned Worrill in an article for the Chicago Crusader

He added: “The present day Reparations Movement for African people in America is connected to the leadership of Sister Callie House who founded The National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association in the 1890s. According to historian Mary Frances Berry, Sister House organized a Black Mass Movement demanding reparations from the 1890s to 1915.”


Worrill as an essential part of the creation of The National Coalition Of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), which was organized in 1988. According to Worill it was created in the “tradition of Callie House.” 

“Since 1988, N’COBRA has developed a number of strategies designed to gain reparations for African people in America and to help advance international efforts to win reparations,” Chicago Crusader reported. 

Rallies, Protests, & Marches

For more than three decades, Worrill has organized dozens of rallies centered around reparations. He played a major role in organizing the Million Man March in 1995 on the National Mall Grounds in Washington, D.C.

UN Petition

In 1997, Worrill delivered a petition to the United Nations accusing the United States government of genocide and asking for reparations. He was also  part of a group that “successfully lobbied delegates at the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, to declare that slavery was ‘a crime against humanity.’ And he created the “community component” of the national lawsuit for reparations, mobilizing African Americans to fill local courtrooms during hearings in the case,” The Chicago Reporter reported.

Following Suit

According to Worrill, African Americans have seen that reparations are possible as the U.S. agreed to give reparations to Native American tribes and Japanese American internment camp prisoners. On the international scene, Holocaust survivors were also financially compensated. “It just seemed like that would be applicable many times-fold for African people,” Worrill said. And while he feels the Black community has some internal problems, he noted, “We’ve got to repair ourselves, but we don’t let people off the hook who put us into this position.”

Addressing Reparations Criticism

Worrill told the Chicago Reporter that he has heard all the criticism about reparations.  “I mean, nobody was comfortable when they captured us and introduced us over here,” he said. “Why is it important for anybody to get redemption for atrocities committed against them? Our case is a worst-case scenario of this in world history. The problem is that, unfortunately, people always try to dilute what has happened to us, because it makes white people, and even some black people, uncomfortable.”