Essay on Reparations for Slavery

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901 words
Vanderbilt University
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In the 1990s, there was the universal need for the colonist to pay for the damages they caused the Africans during the colonial period. Similarly, there was an identified need for the Native Americans to be compensated for the slavery and ill-treatment they were exposed to. The Reparations movement was then formed to make sure they were compensated. It is from this campaign that the word reparations was coined. Reparations have therefore been accepted universally to mean making amends or compensating for damages. This paper will tackle the reparation argument in the United States of America. Also, the article will even cover the effects of non-reparation on the diaspora.

There is no doubt that the Africa Americans suffered a long period of intense enslavement. However, what many disputes are what kind of debt is owed to the descendants of the slaves who were in America. The confusion about this matter became so apparent when the conservative activist in the America, David Horowitz, put an ad in the newspaper to denounce the reparation of the slaves for the injustices they suffered. This was greeted by demonstrations from various Colleges in the States. This contending incident is a proof of the simmering debate silently lingering on the minds of many on slave reparations (Winbush, 2003).

The debate about the reparation started long ago although it seems not to end. There was an initial plan to compensate the Africans for the slavery, segregation and unequal lives. This promise was echoed by the currently civil rights activist, Randall Robinson, to remind the government of that promise. Randall said that the cotton produced in the days past of the slavery was the main reason America became powerful. However, it was startling to know that the very people who contributed in labor have not been paid (Winbush, 2003). These words were a mirror of what Martin Luther Junior echoed eloquently. He said that the Americans had given the Negro people instead of a bad check. This was against the promise the slaves forefathers held tightly in their hearts that they will receive a 40 acres of land and a mule. General William Tecumseh Sherman proposed this promise. However, the then president Andrew Johnson and the Congress rejected the ideas. The bad check given to the Negros is hard to believe since it does not reflect the vaults of opportunities available within the American nation (Mitchem, 2007).

The reparation movements like Reparations Coordinating Committee in America and Africa Reparation movement in Britain all call for the compensation from those countries that benefited from slave trade and colonialism. The compensation is to cover for the massive loss of African lives of approximately 100 million during the slave trade. Moreover, the reparation is aimed at repaying the slaves who worked for over 400 years without payment. Finally, the movements seek to get compensation for the goods taken from Africa like minerals during the colonial period and for the racial harm caused to Africa during that time. It is important to point out that the reparation movement is not just about the monetary compensation. It is about the acknowledgment of the cruelty and guilt of slavery and colonial exploitation America imposed on the Africans. It also seeks to gain an apology from America for the slavery and exploitation they meted. These are crimes against humanity that is even recognized by the American government.

Randall Robinson has a testimony of various companies who have apologized for their role in slavery. Recently, the Hartford Courant Newspaper apologized for running an ad for the sale and capture of slaves. Aetna insurance was not spared the empathy when they regretted having insured slaves as personal property (Brooks, 2004). This is an evidence of the cruelty and exploitation the Africans faced at the beginning of 1619. Randall Robinson however, asserts that saying sorry is not the end of the matter but is the starting point that culminated to compensation.

Around America, countries like Germany have undertaken the duty to compensate the victims of the Holocaust a sum of $60 billion. Moreover, the victims of the World War II have been compensated. Interestingly, America in 1988 agreed to pay $20,000 to more than 100,000 Japanese-Americans sent to an internment grounds during the Second World War. If America gave reparations to these victims, then there should be no reason to delay the long-awaited compensation to Africans descendant who suffered slavery and exploitation. There are arguments of who to make the compensation and to whom since the victims and those responsible for the crime are no more and this is addressed by Randall. He responded firmly by saying that when governments commit crimes against segments of their own population, such governments are mandated to address the issue and provide restitution (Kymlicka & Bashir, 2008).

In conclusions, basing from the magnitude of the sufferings and sufferings the slaves were subjected to, the triple effect is still strongly lingering on the descendants of the slaves who live substandard lives compared to white Americans who were privileged to attend the best schools, better jobs and had protected rights.


Brooks, R. L. (2004). Atonement and forgiveness: A new model for Black reparations. Berkeley [u.a.: University of California Press.

Kymlicka, W., & Bashir, B. (2008). The politics of reconciliation in multicultural societies. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Mitchem, S. Y. (2007). African American folk healing. New York, NY [u.a.: New York Univ. Press.

Winbush, R. A. (2003). Should America pay?: Slavery and the raging debate on reparations. New York: Amistad.

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