The end of slavery in the United States was the beginning of a new era. Many African American families have felt the impact of slavery, either directly or indirectly. In recent times, many actors during the slave trade era are remorseful about their involvement in the trade.
No amount of compensation can ever substitute the horrors experienced by the slaves. However, compensations have come in various forms like apologies and memorialising enslaved men and women by building monuments or renaming buildings in their honour. Another form of reparation that is widely advocated for now is financial reparation.
There is an ongoing debate in congress on whether restitution would widen the division between black and white citizens or bridge the gap. Some institutions that benefited from slavery are making amends for the roles they played in promoting it.
The Virginia Theological Seminary (VTS), which was built with slave labour, recently announced that is setting aside $1.7 million as an endowment fund for slavery reparations.
Some Georgetown students in April also indicated that they were instituting a reparations fund for the descendants of the slaves who were sold.
Nonetheless, the struggle for reparation did not start in the 21st century as some brave Black women have been actively fighting for reparations since 1778.
Here are 4 Black women who pioneered slavery reparations:
Belinda Sutton’s tombstone. Photo: Freedom’s Way National Heritage
Belinda Sutton is known as the first black woman to call for slavery reparations in North America. As a freed slave of the Royall Junior household, Belinda was allocated a pension for all the work she did for the household, but she never got paid. Isaac Royall Junior, in his will, allocated funds for Belinda after he fled America in 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. For ten years, she wrote five petitions before she finally got what was due her from her slave master’s descendants.
Belinda’s Petition. Photo: Royallhouse.org
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Sojourner Truth. Photo: Citizen Times
Truth was a slave trade abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Born into slavery, she fled to her freedom in 1826 with her infant child. She believed slaves helped build America’s wealth and demanded reparation “through land distribution”. In 1870, she petitioned Congress to give the freed slaves in Washington land to fend for themselves. Her petition failed but her actions still paved the way for others to fight for their reparations.
A statue of Sojourner. Photo: The New Republic
Callie House. Photo: Wikipedia
Callie was a hardworking mother of five and a washerwoman. Seeing how her fellow slaves were unable to fend for themselves, Callie actively joined the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association that took their petition to the U.S. Congress to obtain redress for historical wrongs. The federal government had then started accusing the association of using mail to lead a fraud scheme. Callie was later accused in 1916 of postal fraud and spent a year in prison.
Newspaper Clipping of Callie House and I.H Dickerson. Photo: National Archives
Audley “The Queen Mother ” Moore. Photo: Face2FaceAfrica
Audley “Queen Mother” Moore
Audley, known as the “Queen Mother” of the modern reparations movement, was born in 1819. Drawing inspiration directly from Marcus Garvey, Audley was an outspoken civil rights activist and a black nationalist. She modernized and popularized the restitution of slaves. In 1963, she wrote an in-depth analysis on reparations titled, ‘Why Reparations?’ Her research provided a legal basis and a new outlook on reparations. She dedicated eight decades of her life actively fighting for reparations. Her dream to see all slaves compensated may soon become a reality as Congress continues to deliberate reparations.
A young Audley, Photo: Youtube