WHEREAS, African Americans have been enslaved in the United States from 1619 to 1865 and people of African descent have been murdered, brutalized, made victims of genocide, sexually assaulted and economically depressed based on race in the United States from 1619 through the civil rights movement. Evidence of this systemic racism are still present today. The United States government must atone for the actions in the name of the United States government against Black people in the United States; and
WHEREAS, there is legal precedent for reparations and numerous prior recommendations for reparations. The Policy of "40 acres and a mule," was Union General William T. Sherman's Special Field Order No. 15, issued January 16, 1865, provided for the massive land redistribution actually was the result of a discussion that Sherman, the Secretary of War, and 20 leaders of the Black Community. Section one of the order states: "The islands from Charleston. South Carolina, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns River, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the Negroes [sic] now made freely the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States." Section two specifies that these new communities, moreover, would be governed entirely by black people themselves: " . .. on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever. unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves ... By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro [sic] is free and must be dealt with as such." Finally, section three specifies the allocation of land: "... each family shall have a plot of not more than (40) acres of tillable ground, and when it borders on some water channel, with not more than 800 feet water front, in the possession of which land the military authorities will afford them protection, until such time as they can protect themselves, or until Congress shall regulate their title."
With this Order, 400,000 acres of land -"a strip of coastline stretching from Charleston, South Carolina, to the St. John's River in Florida including Georgia's Sea Islands and the mainland thirty miles in from the coast," as Barton Myers reports - would be redistributed to the newly freed slaves. President Andrew Johnson overturned the order in the fall of 1865, and, "returned the land along the South Carolina, Georgia and Florida coasts to the planters who had originally owned it"- to the very people who had declared war on the United States of America; and
WHEREAS, the next push for reparations took place at the turn of the century. Several black organizations lobbied Congress to provide pensions for former slaves and their children. One bill introduced into the U.S. Senate in 1894 would have granted direct payments of up to $500 to all ex-slaves plus monthly pensions ranging from $4 to $15. This, and several similar bills, died in congressional committees. The pension movement itself faded away with the onset of World War I; and
WHEREAS, during the 1960s, some black leaders revived the idea of reparations. In 1969, James Forman (then head of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) proclaimed a "Black Manifesto." It demanded $500 million from American churches and synagogues for their role in perpetuating slavery before the Civil War. Black Nationalist organizations, such as the Black Panther Party and Black Muslims, also demanded reparations; and
WHEREAS, in the 1980s, a new call arose for black reparations. It was stimulated by two other movements that successfully secured payments from the U.S. government. The Supreme Court in 1980 ordered the federal government to pay eight Sioux Indian tribes $122 million to compensate for the illegal seizure of tribal lands in 1977. Then in 1988, Congress approved the payment of $1.25 billion to 60,000 Japanese-American citizens who had been interned in prison camps during World War II; and
WHEREAS, in April 1989, Council Member Ray Jenkins guided through the Detroit City Council a resolution. It called for a $40 billion federal education fund for black college and trade school students. About the same time, a conference of black state legislators meeting in New Orleans backed the idea of a federally financed education fund for descendants of slaves. Shortly afterward, Rep. John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) drafted a bill calling for the establishment of a congressional commission to study the impact of slavery on African-Americans; and
WHEREAS, reparations are a financial recompense for African-Americans whose ancestors were slaves and lived through the Jim Crow era. The enslavement and overall persecution of Black people in the United States has enriched the United States and created disparities in income, wealth and education between blacks and whites. The current-day legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and that action is needed to reduce these differences. As Tahcsi-Coates says in a recent Atlantic Magazine article "The Case for Reparations": "What I'm talking about is more than recompense for past injustices — more than a handout, a payoff, hush money, or a reluctant bribe. What I'm talking about is a national reckoning that would lead to spiritual renewal"; and
WHEREAS, in the first order, the NAACP should support reparations for Black people in the United States. We need a race-centered economic empowerment package for African Americans that builds generational wealth and accounts for not only slavery but the decades upon decades of economic pillaging. Colorlines, a publication run by Race Forward. reported that "the U.S. government spends bill ions subsidizing fanning in America, yet Black farmers today receive only one-third to one-sixth of that... and the Southern Rural Development Initiative found that less than I percent of agriculture subsidy payments between 2001 and 2003 went to Blacks, Native Americans and Asian Americans." Worse inequality has only grown since the Great Depression wiped out any gains black people made in the post-civil rights era. Today, without intervention, it would take an African-American household 228 years to build the same amount of wealth as our white counterparts. Second, in determining what form reparations should take, the United States government should be required to atone in the following way:
- Reparations would involve a national apology, rights to the cannabis industry, financial payment, social service benefits, and land grants to every descendant of an enslaved African American and Black person a descendant of those living in the United States including during American slavery until the Jim Crow era. 1965. Because slavery involved kidnapping, barbarism, and the stripping of language, culture and heritage, many Black people are unaware of their specific African heritage and which country in fact their ancestors were stolen from. The forged documentation, lack of documentation or non-existent documentation, from birth certificates to slave manifest, be it resolved that eligibility for these reparations requires the following: people that were born in the United States or naturalized citizens that have noted their Black heritage on the census, identify as Black on their birth certificate and/or have documentation of enslaved parentage in the United States, documentation of parentage residing in the United States prior to and during the Jim Crow era, and currently identify as Black American or African American. Identification of African-American heritage is both a biological and physical representation of being African-American on a daily basis.
- Land grant of 40 acres: Each family of 3 or more individuals (parents & children) shall be granted 40 acres of tillable land. No taxes to be paid on the property for 5 years from the date the land is first bequeathed by the government. If taxes are not paid on the land or land is taken for any other reason (criminal seizure), those of African descent are to be given the first right of refusal and opportunity to purchase the land. Publication of land availability must be in place for one year from the date of tax lien is issued on the property. If after one year, no person of African descent (eligible based on the same criteria listed for reparation eligibility), then the land may be sold to an individual of Non-African descent.
- Social Services: Due to the disparity in life expectancy, that the descendants of enslaved people should be eligible earlier for receipt of benefits from Social Security, access to Medicare and other old age programs including store discounts, after participating in the workforce. The age for inclusion in these benefits distributions should be lowered by the difference in the life expectancy for African Americans as set within accepted insurance mortality tables. That the county including the Congress of the Unites States is aware of these discrepancies in mortality is evidenced by movements initiated during the George Bush, Jr. administration whereas the move to privatize social security was debated, part of the justification for the move was presented as an effort to make the system "benefit" African Americans in wealth creation by having African Americans in particular and all Americans "own" their wealth rather than dying and having less or nothing to leave to their descendants.
WHEREAS, there needs to be a national reckoning, new policies and structures and systemic structural changes, the NAACP submits reparations are the first step in repairing the devastation inflicted by slavery and racial discrimination. Ultimately when the Black community as a whole is excelling the country excels.
THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP reaffirms and stands in favor of financial reparations to African Americans and those of African Descent in the United States that are descendants of the slavery and the Jim Crow Era.