Reparations: A Chronology Timeline For African Americans

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Written by Ann Brown
By Autumn Keiko/AP images

The issue of reparations isn’t anything new. It dates back more 129 years. There have been discussions about the United States paying back the ancestors of slaves for the free, forced labor that helped build this country. 

Here is a timeline on reparations. 

Writer, scholar, and activist Dr. Conrad Worrill, co-author “Chronology of the Reparations Movement of African Americans” with Ray Winbush, recently outlined the timeline on social media.

1890-1916: National Ex Slave Mutual Relief Bounty and Pension Association was founded with the focus of getting pensions for former slaves from the Federal government as compensation and reparations for their unpaid labor and suffering. It was officially founded in 1896 and chartered in 1898 in Nashville, Tennessee. Former slaves Callie House and Isaiah H. Dickerson founded the group.

1914 to present: Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), was founded by Marcus Garvey and promoted racial pride, economic independence, and the creation of an independent Black nation in Africa. 

“America claims she has nothing for us; England says she has nothing for us; France says so and the different European governments say they have nothing for us… but we have decided we have something for ourselves – that we possess something of ourselves and we have understood that somebody has been keeping it for us,” Garvey said in a speech in 1916.  And he wanted America to help Blacks get back to Africa. UNIA continues to this day. 

1948: More than a few Black history experts and activists feel that the American slave trade fits the Genocide Convention Treaty, UN’s defination of genocide that was laid out in 1948.

1950: “Nation of Islam, Elijah Muhammad begins to voice their demands for Reparations; Robert Brock in the 1950s started Reparations Movement in Calif., spent 40 years working on the issue,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

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1951: IN 1951 Civil Rights Congress (CRC) wrote a paper entitled “We Charge Genocide: The Crime of Government Against the Negro People.” It accused the United States government of genocide based on the UN Genocide Convention and it was presented to the United Nations at meetings in Paris in December 1951.

After CRC secretary William L. Patterson presented the petition to the UN at a Paris meeting, the U.S. State Department forced him to surrender his passport.

W. E. B. Du Bois also presented it to the UN, over the objections of Eleanor Roosevelt.

Actor/activist Paul Robeson during a separation occasion also handed the document to a UN official  in New York City.

1955: There were various grassroots groups organizing around this time. 

1962: Queen Mother Moore and Dara Abubakari form Reparations Committee. They went on to deliver a communique to UN.

1963: A petition of 1 million signature was organized to back the demand for Reparations.

1968: The Republic of New Afrika (RNA) was founded with Imari Obadele. It demanded payment by the federal government of several billion dollars in reparations to African-American descendants of slaves for the suffering due to chattel enslavement as well as the Jim Crow laws, and modern-day racism.

1969: James Forman presented the Black Manifesto Reparations demands at the Riverside Church in NYC. The Black Manifesto demanded that “white churches and synagogues pay reparations for Black enslavement and continuing discrimination and oppression. It had been written and delivered by former SNCC executive director, James Forman, who commandeered the pulpit of Riverside Church in New York on May 4, 1969, disrupting the regular service,” SNCC Digital reported.

The opening words of the manifesto are: “We the Black people assembled in Detroit, Michigan, for the National Black Economic Development Conference are fully aware that we have been forced to come together because racist white America has exploited our resources, our minds, our bodies, our labor…We have helped to build the most industrial country in the world.”

1972: At the National Black Political Convention in 1972, a Reparations resolution passed by 10,000 people and presented to all of the Presidential candidates.

Throughout the 1980s: “African Peoples Socialist Party sponsored nationwide Reparations hearings; Reparations Ray emerges in Detroit as a leading Reparations activist,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

1987 to present: In1987 the National Coalition of Blacks in America (N’COBRA) was launched and it became the premiere reparations organization in the U.S. It is still active today. Also in 1987, Dorothy Lewis Benton, the founder of Black Reparations Commission, publishes two informative books on reparations.

1988:”In 1989, Massachusetts State Senator Bill Owens introduces Senate Bill 1621, cosponsored by Representatives Shirley Owens-Hicks and Byron Rushing. This bill is an act to provide for reparations by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for slavery, the slave trade, and invidious discrimination against people of African descent born or residing in the US,” ForReparations.org reported.                       

1989: Congressman John Conyers’ HR40 Study Bill was initially introduced.

1993: “The First Pan African Conference on Reparations was held in Abuja, Nigeria, April 27-29 and attended by African Americans,” The Atlanta World Daily reported. 

1994:  Lost and Found Nation of Islam/Silas Muhammad officially requested hearings at UN on reparations.

1994, 1995: Florida legislature passes reparations settlement in Rosewood, Florida. It approved a “$2.1 million reparations bill to help make amends for the state turning its back on the racial violence that wiped out Rosewood, a black hamlet in Levy County,” the Florida Sentinel reported.

1995: On October 16, during brief NOI MMM presentation, Dr. Worrill spoke about Reparations, the release of all political prisoners, and the support for African Centered Education.

1995: The Cato Decision. California courts ruled against reparations lawsuit. The Cato Institute “is a public policy research organization — a think tank — dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace,” according to its website.

1996-1997: National Black United Front (NBUF) Genocide Campaign: Holocaust, Genocide – Reparations was launched.

1998: Africa Group Resolution announce that the Transatlantic Slave Trade was a Crime Against Humanity.

1999: Tulsa Race Riot Commission launched to explore the lingering effects of the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 during which mobs of white residents attacked Black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The commission was also formed to look into reparations for the survivors and the descendants of the victims.

2000: Legal Strategist/Atty. Deadria Farmer-Paellmann launches campaign to expose corporate complicity in slavery; secures apology from Aetna, Inc. for its benefiting from the slave trade.

2000: “The Dec. 12th Movement role in following Malcolm X’s idea of exposing the plight of African people before world bodies. They have played a leading role in organizing around the Transatlantic Slave Trade was a Crime Against Humanity as an NGO for 15 years at the UN,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

2000: Support grows for HR40, especially during the Chicago Alderman Dorothy Hearing.

2000: More and more politicians and activists have started discussing the idea of reparations and develop a variety of strategies including lawsuits, trust funds/education, land set asides, release of political prisoners and other prisoners, as well as economic development funds.

2001: Pan African Unity convenes on the question of reparations.

2001: “The Durban 400 and the African and African American Descendants Caucus and Pan African Unity on the Question of the TransAtlantic Slave Trade, Slavery, Colonialism and Apartheid being Crimes Against Humanity and that Reparations are owed to African people worldwide,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

2001: Randall Robinson’s “The Debt,” which offers an argument for reparations for the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, is published.

2002: Attorney Deadria Farmer Paellmann continues her efforts and sues more than 20 U.S. corporations for their predecessor companies profiteering from the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade. 

On August 17, Millions for Reparations Rally was organized by the Durban 400  in Washington, DC. More than 50,000 people attend and it was aired live on C-SPAN.

On March 21, the Queen Mother Reparations Bill was introduced by Councilman Charles Barron (NY).  It recognized the Transatlantic Slave Trade as a Crime Against Humanity.

On Oct. 2nd, Chicago Slave Era Disclosure Act-Corporations declared that corporations must disclose their ties to slavery prior to conducting business.

2002-2003: Several reparations lawsuits were filed during this period, including the Reparations Corporate Lawsuit filed March 26, 2002 in Brooklyn, NY; Tulsa Riot Reparations Lawsuit filed February 24, 2003 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

2003: “February 26th, First Hearing of the Consolidated Class Action Corporate Lawsuit in Chicago Federal Court. Lead Attorneys were Lionel Jean-Baptiste and Roger Wareham. Over a two-year period Millions For Reparations organized mass rallies on the streets and filled the courtroom,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

Dr. Raymond Winbush’s book “Should America Pay?” is published.

Dr. Conrad Worrill, former National Chair of the National Black United Fund, creates the Ndaba Movement.

During the year, five cities — Chicago, Jackson, Miss., Houston, Baltimore, and Atlanta — hosted mass meetings with Minister Farrakhan and Worrill educating attendees about reparations.

2003-2004: “Other City Council Resolutions (following the Chicago Model) require corporations to disclose their ties to slavery, January 8th, Reparations Lawsuit filed by Bob Brown in Chicago, March 20th Phase IV of NBUF Genocide Reparations Petition Campaign, worldwide,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

2004: Nationwide NBUF elected officials debut the Reparations Survey Scorecard Campaign.

On May 12th, 2004 Second Reparations Lawsuit was filed by Bob Brown, Chicago.

2005: Minister Farrakhan’s Millions More Movement endorses reparations for the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

2005-2007: State of Illinois Transatlantic Slave Trade Commission is created and published two reports.

2006: Wilmington Race Riot Report published in N.C calling for reparations for the 1898 Wilmington Massacre, considered the most serious incident of racial violence in the history of North Carolina.

By 2007 Unfortunately, all of the reparations Lawsuits that had been filed were dismissed on the U.S. legal concept of Statute of Limitations.

2008: The State of the Black World Conference was hosted by the Institute of the Black World on September 8, 2008 in New Orleans to discuss reparations.

2008-2016: N’COBRA, NBUF and others continued to support HR40. N’COBRA sponsored Reparations Awareness Days.

2014: Institute of the Black World and the Carruthers Center For Inner City Studies featuring such speakers as the Minister Farrakhan, Dr. Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Dr. Iva Carruthers, Kamm Howard, and Worrill presented their points for reparations. 

The Atlantic Monthly magazine publishes Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “A Case For Reparations.”

2015: National African American Reparations Commission (NARRC) is launched at York College in N.Y. 

2018: Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore debut the #ADOS hashtag, and it “stirs up great controversy regarding their Reparations conceptualization and positions,” The Atlanta World Daily reported.

2019: Finally, the U.S. House holds reparations hearing on Juneteenth with testimony from Ta-Nehisi Coates and Danny Glover.

Presidential candidates and Trump speaking on it for the first time.