READING AND THE REPARATIONS MOVEMENT

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Dr. Conrad Worrill

Henry Louis Gates wrote an Op-Ed article that appeared in the New York Times on April 23, 2010, essentially attempting to re-conceptualize the reparations issue by implying that history is too complicated to bring about a “just and lasting agreement on the divisive issue of slavery reparations.”

In my view, Professor Gates was “dead wrong,” and we should begin reviewing the history of the Reparations Movement by reading and re-reading Dr. Raymond Winbush’s book on this subject.

In 2003, a book on the African in America Reparations Movement was released entitled, Should America Pay? edited by Dr. Raymond A. Winbush, the Director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University.

In February 2001, Dr. Winbush, who was formerly the Director of Fisk University’s Race Relations Institute, sponsored a two-day conference on slavery and reparations that brought together leading researchers, politicians, historians, and activists from throughout the country to dialogue on the issue of Reparations for African people in America.

The conference was so successful that Dr. Winbush suggested that several of the presenters be included in a book he was proposing, which would entail several articles addressing the broad spectrum of the reparations debate in this country.

Dr. Winbush, who is now a professor at Morgan State University, has emerged as one of the leading scholar/activists in this country, and throughout the world, and has used his considerable skills as a researcher and writer as the editor of this book, Should America Pay?

What makes this book perhaps one of the most significant and comprehensive books published on the issue of reparations for African people in America is that it thoroughly covers the broad spectrum of this movement in six sections with more than 20 articles that address: Part I – History and Reparations, Part II – Reparations and the Law, Part III – Voices For and Against Reparations, Part IV – Reparations and Grassroots Organizing, Part V – Reparations and Intervention, and Part VI – Historical Documents.

The worldwide African Reparations Movement has become unified around the fact that the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade, Slavery, and Colonialism were Crimes Against Humanity. This unity impacted the United Nations World Conference Against Racism that was held in Durban, South Africa, in August and September 2001, to officially declare in the conference outcome that the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and Slavery was a Crime Against Humanity.

The momentum gained by African people who participated in the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, particularly the Durban 400, organized by the December 12th Movement and the National Black United Front, led to “The Call” for the Millions For Reparations Mass Rally held in Washington, D. C., on August 17, 2002. More than fifty thousand African people from 38 states and 66 cities participated in this all day rally, whose theme was “THEY OWE US.”

Against this backdrop, Should America Pay? has now been published by Amistad: An Imprint of Harper Collins Publishers.

In the introduction chapter Dr. Winbush writes, “As this book goes to press the reparations movement, historically considered a fringe issue in the American Black nationalist community, is now firmly established among various constituencies in the United States as well as in African communities around the world. Its ascendancy as an important social movement— I would argue the most important since Civil Rights— is confirmed by the amount of print space and air time the media devote to it.”

Winbush continues by observing, “Though the movement is picking up speed, compensatory measures for Africans have been elusive because of the entrenchment of white supremacy in world politics that provided legal sanction for this crime against humanity.”

Perhaps the most significant aspect of Should America Pay? is the framework Dr. Winbush develops in his introductory chapter for understanding the rise of the Reparations Movement.

Dr. Winbush explains, “A convergence of four groups provides a conceptual framework for understanding the current discussion of reparations: 1) grassroots organizers, 2) legislators, 3) attorneys, and 4) academics. A similar convergence of cooperation occurred during the late 1940s and resulted in what we now call the Civil Rights Movement.”

In this context, Dr. Winbush makes the analogy that, “Reparations have a similar history. Grassroots organizations such as the December 12th Movement (D12), National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N`COBRA), and the National Black United Front (NBUF) worked closely with legislators in the mid-1980s. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), for example, who collaborated with the Reparations Coordinating Committee (RCC), consisting of attorneys such as Willie Gary, Randall Robinson, and Johnnie Cochran and academics such as Manning Marble and Ron Walters.”

Dr. Winbush writes, “These groups conversed long and hard with each other, and as you will see, these discussions were often heated and difficult. What united them, however, was a goal of pressing for reparations on a global level for African people.”

I encourage those of you who are interested in learning more about the Reparations Movement to purchase this book. In my judgment, Should America Pay? will be the definitive textbook on the Reparations Movement with contributing chapters from Molefi Asanté, John Conyers Jr., Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann, Wade Nobles, Adjoa A. Aiyetoro, Roger Wareham, and others. And yes, I even have two chapters in this most outstanding contribution to the continued discussion of the Reparations Movement in America.

Dr. Conrad Worrill, Professor Emeritus, Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies (CCICS). New office location is at 1809 E. 71st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60649, 773-592-2598. Email: cworrill@neiu.edu Website: www.drconradworrill.com.

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