Reparations Mark New Front For US Colleges Tied To Slavery

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Written by Ann Brown
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Reparations talk is not only growing across America but on college campuses as well as some have decided to own up to how they benefited from American slavery. Source L’Illustration (Paris), Vol. 14, 1849, p. 136 Description Captioned Caravane d’éclaves, illustration shows five enslaved men linked by poles in the so-called Goree, or Slave-Stick Goree; Arab slave trader in foreground. This illustration accompanies a lengthy eyewitness account by Loarer (no first name given) on slavery on the east coast of Africa (pp. 135-138).

Reparations talk is not only growing across America but on college campuses as well as some have decided to own up to how they benefited from American slavery.

“Georgetown University and two theological seminaries have announced funding commitments to benefit descendants of the enslaved people who were sold or toiled to benefit the institutions,” AP reported.

“It doesn’t have to be trillions of dollars…but at least address the inequities and attack the racial wealth gap between African Americans and white Americans and really everybody else, because this is an American-made institution. We didn’t immigrate here,” said University of Buffalo senior Jeffrey Clinton, a descendant of slaves who lives in Bay Shore, New York.

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This is what’s happening at Georgetown, as undergraduates there voted in April for a nonbinding referendum to pay a $27.20-per-semester “Reconciliation Contribution.” These funds will be directed at projects in underprivileged communities that are home to descendants of 272 slaves who in 1838 were sold to partially pay off the school’s debts.

“Georgetown President John DeGioia responded in October with plans instead for a university-led initiative, with the goal of raising about $400,000 from donors, rather than students, to support projects like health clinics and schools in those same communities,” AP reported.

Discussions of reparations are also going on at the University of Alabama and the University of Chicago.  Yale University removed the names of slavery supporters from buildings, while Brown University erected a  Slavery Memorial sculpture and the Memorial to Enslaved Laborers is currently under construction at the University of Virginia.

In September, Virginia Theological Seminary announced a $1.7 million endowment fund in recognition of slaves who worked there. The fun will be used toward supporting African-American clergy in the Episcopal church as well as to support programs that promote justice and inclusion.

The Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey created a $27.6-million endowment after a historical audit showed that some founders used slave labor.

Nearly 56 universities have joined a consortium led by the University of Virginia called Universities Studying Slavery. The goal of the consortium is to explore their ties to slavery and share research and strategies.

“It’s a very diffused kind of set of things happening around the nation,” said Guy Emerson Mount, an associate professor of African-American history at Auburn University. “It’s really important to pay attention to what each of these are doing” because they could offer learning opportunities and inform national discussions on reparations.

“William Darity, a Duke University public policy professor and an expert on reparations, said the voices of college students have helped bring attention to reparations in a way that hasn’t been seen since Reconstruction,” AP reported.

“I don’t want anybody to be under the impression that these constitute comprehensive reparations,” Darity said.

Supporting a reparations program for all Black descendants of American slaves “would be the more courageous act,” he said.