Reparations as an Enduring Social Movement


Callie House

From The Guardian:

From the moment slavery was abolished, emancipated Black people demanded redress. In 1777, at the time of the first emancipations in the revolutionary American north, a group of emancipated African people wrote to the Massachusetts legislature. Many of the petitioners had been kidnapped from homes in Africa, “unjustly dragged, by the cruel hand of Power, from their dearest friends, and some of them even torn from the embraces of their tender Parents”.

The petitioners did not plead for the barest form of freedom. They asked to be “restored to the enjoyment of that freedom which is the natural right of all Men and their Children”. They wanted “every social privilege … requisite to render Life even tolerable”. The Massachusetts legislature never responded to the principles laid out by these Black reparationists. Silence itself has long been a weapon used by those in power.

In response, Black folk took up reparations for slavery as an enduring social movement, bequeathed from generation to generation. Like traits passed down through a large, scattered family, the reparationist movements of the 19th and 20th centuries exhibited variations on certain themes. Ideas of repair focused on the need to restore both personal and collective privileges and benefits.

“How the long fight for slavery reparations is slowly being won”, Kris Manjapra, The Guardian

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