It\’s Black History Month: Do Blacks Really Want 40 Acres and A Mule?

One of the great benefits of living in the District of Columbia is that you never have to do the same leisure activity twice.  From time to time I\’m inspired to visit the museums, and that particular Spring day I brought along my niece who was nine at the time.  We visited the Holocaust Museum which was our first time.  The exhibits were very expressive of the conditions in which the people had to live and one of the exhibits I recall was \”The Ghetto.\”  While observing the conditions in \”The Ghetto\” I said I wonder if this is where the whole \”ghetto\” reference to humiliate another human derived.  Then we learned about Daniel\’s story and how his family had been killed along with surviving the murky conditions in the concentration camps under the Nazi Germany regime.  What I will never forget is when I heard a young child ask his mother \”what is the Holocaust?,\” but I didn\’t stick around to hear the answer.

Today, Georgetown University has been gifted $10 million dollars from the Braman Foundation to research the murder of 6 million Jews.  That is just astonishing maybe now is the perfect time for Blacks to consider having a round-table discussion on reparations from the American Civil War.  According to the Washington Post, Georgetown stated that the Holocaust will be examined in all its dimensions-it\’s causes and consequences, its role in the establishment of the state of Israel and it\’s continuing impact on modern Judaism which has been impacted by a rise in acts of antisemitism and questions of Israel\’s legitimacy.

Before you get too philosophical on me bear in mind that reparations has nothing to do with church and state, so now that we have that fact out of the way let\’s define what is reparations.  If we consider Britannica\’s definition it states payment in money or materials by a nation defeated in war.  Another way to define reparations as military orders dealing specifically with the freed slaves also referred to as Special Field Orders, No. 15, issued by General William Sherman on January 1, 1865 granting 40 acres of land and a mule.  Now let\’s fast forward to the year two thousand and eleven when 61-year-old Elijah Brown filled a lawsuit against the federal government accusing the US of violating their obligations to his ancestors who died in 1891 and he won 40 acres of land and a mule.

Recently, the United Nations Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent called on the US to pay African Americans reparations for slavery.  One of the solutions the group recommended would be to establish a National Human Rights Commission and publicly acknowledge that the trans-Atlantic Slave trade was a crime against humanity.  The UN Working Group also wants to ask Congress to study slavery, and it\’s aftereffects and considering reparations.  Just given consideration to reparations isn\’t a bad thought, although one should consider that no amount of money can bring back a life, and it just needs to be a balanced decision.  Who knows maybe you will be lucky like Mr. Brown and be granted your 40 acres and a mule, but you must first find out if your ancestors were one of the 18,000 freed slaves.

Living in the ghetto is considered luxury as to being a slave.  First you must become identified as a citizen and back in 1866 the 14th amendment to the US Constitution granted citizenship to blacks.  Second, slaves with darker hues of skin pigmentation had to sleep in barns or in slave quarters.  In the reign of King Tut ruling in Egypt slaves were responsible for the building of the pyramids.  However, I am not certain if slaves had classifications and ranking back then, but in the Bible Christian slaves had to endure the conditions of the master and not question their punishments, but it was acceptable to discuss inheriting slaves.  James Smith writes in 1865 of slavery, if a Christian man is held in slavery by authority of the municipal law of the country in which he resides, his duty is to be contented with his situation, and to yield implicit obedience to those laws.  He then goes on to say a Christian slave cannot free from his master\’s service nor can a disciple of Christ excite slaves to rebellion or aid.

Here are some factors to consider in the back payment of reparations conversation, start with the last slave ship arriving in Mobile Bay, Alabama in 1859 or even before then when Supreme Court decided that African Americans could not be a citizen of the US and thus had no rights of citizenship.  Then Washington, D.C. abolished slavery which was an important step for freedom for all African-Americans.  Oh let\’s not forget the 13th and 14th amendments acknowledging blacks as citizens onto slavery being outlawed in the US.  Not to mention the yearly lynching since the 16th century along with using literacy and understanding test to disenfranchise black American citizens.  Be prepared to talk about the gruesome conditions and one of the bloodiest race riots \”Red Summer\” in 1919, with 26 race riots between months of April thru October. That conversation could go long into the night, and early morning hours, but the question still remains should Blacks be granted reparations?

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