Skip to content



Abstract: The National Reparations Survey, begun in 2002 and scheduled  to be completed in 2008, is intended to provide to a critical mass of  African Americans the opportunity to speak directly to the issue of what  an achieved reparations result should look like and be about. Armed  with that body of information, those who will eventually be involved in  negotiating the accomplishment of reparations for African Americans will  be able to do so based on the strength of what the black community has  said it wants and demands. This survey utilizes 21 Yes-No inquiries, and  an open-ended section to allow for respondents to suggest their own  remedies not covered in the 21 questions. The respondents are both  randomized African Americans and participants at African  American-centered meetings, conferences and events in American cities.  It is anticipated that by 2008-2009, there will be approximately 50,000  self-identified African American respondents.

Summary  Introduction: At the June, 2005 NCOBRA Annual Conference, the Media and  Communications Commission discussed and approved a joint effort to  disseminate a National Reparations Survey instrument at the  then-upcoming Millions More Movement (MMM) gathering scheduled for  October 15, 2005 in Washington, D.C. That survey had already been  validated, distributed, collected and collated since 2002-2003 by a  group of African American university students and the community-based  organization, the Reparations Research and Advocacy Group (RRAG), both  coordinated by Dr. David L. Horne out of Los Angeles, California and  California State University, Northridge. Dr. Horne is a lifetime member  of NCOBRA.
By June, 2005, the team working on the National  Reparations Survey had received and analyzed 6,680 responses (6,500 of  which were identified from African Americans). The ultimate goal of the  surveyors was and is to receive up to or more than 50,000 responses.
The  National Reparations Survey is intended to provide to a critical mass  of African Americans the opportunity to speak directly to the issue of  what an achieved reparations result should look like and be about. Armed  with that body of information, those who will eventually be involved in  negotiating the accomplishment of reparations for African Americans  will be able to do so based on the strength of what the Black community  has said it wants and demands.
The Media and Communications  Commission of NCOBRA arranged to jointly financewith the RRAGthe  printing of 10,000 reformatted surveys for in-your-hand dissemination at  the MMM gathering. The plans agreed upon included utilizing at least  twelve university students, plus MCC staffers, and volunteers from Los  Angeles to pass the survey out and to collect as many of them  immediately as the circumstances allowed. Unfortunately, with an 11th  hour change of location for NCOBRAs kiosk at the MMM mandated by the  Nation of Islam (NOI) leadership, and interruption of cell phone  communication (thought to be from the massive federal surveillance of  the affair), those well-laid plans could not be implemented. Trying to  adjust to the new situation, the L.A. volunteers moved through as much  of the crowd as they could from one vantage point, and the MCC staffers  and students passed out as many surveys as they had on hand, and  together approximately 6,500 of the newly printed surveys got  disseminated.
As a result, an estimated 250 completed surveys were  collected on the spot, and 1,400 surveys were subsequently sent to the  mailing address provided on the back of the survey form.
The Media  and Communications Commission members, the student volunteers, and the  Los Angeles visitors are to be congratulated for making a positive way  out of what seemed at the time to be no way to get the job done.
They  well represented NCOBRAs tradition of staying on an issue until a  viable way to complete the assigned task is found, in spite of the chaos  and confusion surrounding that issue.
The results of the additional  1,650 responses collected from the MMM participants raised the total of  survey participants to 8,330 (8,150 self-identified African Americans).  Between November, 2005 and February 15, 2006, another 1,965 responses  (1,900 A.A.) were received from New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta and South  Carolina (Columbia and Charleston), making it a total of 10,295  responses (and 10,050 African American responses).
Between February,  2006 and December, 2007, an additional 1,850 surveys have been collected  from mailed-in forms from 8 U.S. cities, and from participants at 2  regional conferences. Those responses have not yet been tabulated and  integrated into the preliminary results, but that task should be  completed by January 15, 2008. A major mailing of the survey will occur  in February, 2008, during Black History Month, to all of the current  African-centered departments and programs in U.S. colleges and  universities, and to all known African American-centered community based  organizations. Recipients will be asked to pass the survey out to their  students, community residents, etc. By the end of 2008, the expectation  is that the goal of 50,000 or more respondents should have been  accomplished, and before the end of 2009, the final results should be  available for public dissemination.

Preliminary Results I &  II: The National Reparations Survey
Initial responses received, June  2002- June 2005
Total number: 6,680
African American  self-identifiers: 6,500
Locations from which received responses: New  York City, Kansas City, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, Los  Angeles, San Francisco, Houston,  Baltimore, Washington, D.C.,  Jacksonville, Columbia.

Responses received post-June, 2005
(A)  Additional responses from MMM participants, October, 2005 (A.A):  1,650
Additional  locations from which responses received from MMM participants: Newark,  Atlanta, New York, Charleston, Raleigh, Pasadena, Cleveland, Birmingham,  Kent (Ohio), Yonkers, Buffalo, Toledo.
(B) Additional responses  received, 2005-2006 by Mail: 1,965 (1,900 from self-identified A.A.)
Additional  locations from which responses received:  New York, Los Angeles,  Atlanta, Charleston, Columbia
(C) Additional responses received from  random participants, 2006-2007, and from two conferences, 2007: 1,850  (1,835 self-identified African Americans)
Additional locations from  which responses received: Seattle, WA; San Diego, CA; Carson, CA;  Compton, CA; Indianapolis, IN; Washington, D.C.; Inglewood, CA; Columbus  OH.
Total responses collected as of December 2007: 12,145.
Total  responses collected from self-identified African American participants  as of December 2007:  11,885
Total responses tabulated as of December  2007: 10,295
Total responses tabulated from self-identified African  American participants as of December 2007:  10,050
Current  (uninterpreted) survey results as of December 2007 (Based on counting  10,050 A.A. responses):
 85% of African Americans surveyed believe  they are owed reparations in some form from the U.S. and it is fair to  pursue reparations.
 79% of African Americans surveyed believe they  have a clear enough idea of what reparations mean in the U.S.. (This is  particularly the case when a phrase containing 40 acres and a mule is  mentioned).
 75% of African Americans surveyed believe they can make  a convincing argument about reparations.
 84% of African Americans  surveyed believe the achievement of reparations will provide more  respect for being black in America.
 80% of African Americans  surveyed believe that current white Americans, even though they didnt  own slaves, continue to be unjustly enriched from the unpaid labor of  18th and 19th century slaves.
 85% of African Americans surveyed  believe that the achievement of reparations will help heal the racial  divide in this country, while 75% believe that achieving reparations  will make things worse for African Americans.
 79% of African  Americans surveyed believe the U.S. government should  pay some form of  reparations, and 85% believe American corporations should be sued for  reparations.

74% of African Americans surveyed believe that  receiving money alone is not enough as a reparations solution, and that a  reparations package should be negotiated.
***All collected surveys  are currently housed at the California African American Political and  Economic Institute (CAAPEI) at California State University, Dominguez  Hills, 1000 E. Victoria Street, Carson, California 92407. For more  information, call CAAPEI at (310) 243-2175. Email at or

Reparations  is more than a money issue: its about respect and future

By  Cynthia E. Griffin
OW Staff Writer

The issue at the core of  reparations is really quite simple, says David Horne, co-chair of the  Reparations Platform Coalition in Los Angeles, and an associate  professor in the Pan African Studies Department at Cal State University  Northridge.
When you work, youre supposed to be paid . . . Slaves  in America. . . were never paid. . . that created unjust enrichment for  the white community, and that unjust enrichment is the foundation of  white privilege in American society, explained Horne, who added that  despite that core issue, the reparation movement is about much more than  African Americans getting paid.
The movement is about three things:  Justice. Its about respect, and its about land. Thats the common  denominator, explained Horne, who also noted that reparations is both  an international and national movement. In Kenya, for example, the Mau  Mau are seeking redress. In Namibia, the Hereo were basically  slaughtered by the Germans and had their land taken away. They are now  suing the Germans and demanding compensation be provided for what  happened to them. They took their land, labor, and their lives.
Horne  points out that there are also reparation movements in South Africa,  the Virgin Islands, Haiti, and Barbados to name a few.
Reparations  are also an external and internal issue. Its about a change of value  and respect for being black in this country. You treat people badly,  when you dont respect them, added Horne. If there is one common  denominator about the black existence in America and in other parts of  the world, it is the disrespect for being black. Thats why you have  things like racial profiling.
And that disrespect comes from within  the community and outside.
Clearly the government owes black people.  . . but there are things we have done to each other that we need to  correct; that we messed up on. Reparations is a way to correct that is  to make that adjustment so that black folks can get back to the high  level of respect and value. Reparations is more than what they owe us,  its what we owe ourselves, Horne added.
Laying the foundation for  reparations is a long-term, multi-pronged effort that Horne said  involves a political, legal, business, and educational approach. The  political push centers around House Resolution 40, which was first  introduced by Congressman John Conyers, (D-NY) in 1989, and he has  re-introduced it every year since then. And using his chairmanship of  the Judiciary Committee, Conyers was able to hold Congressional hearings  on the legislation last December for the first time ever.
H.R.40 is a  study bill to look at the feasibility of the federal government paying  reparations to African Americans, the same way the Civil Liberties Act  of 1988 did with Japanese Americans.
Horne said this national  political thrust is also being bolstered by efforts in cities and  counties. In Los Angeles, the effort is focused on trying to get  legislation passed in the city council to establish a Slavery Historical  Commission  so we can study and put together a grand narrative of  African Americans historical contributions to the development of  Southern California.
In the legal arena, Horne said every case has  been lost on one of three grounds sovereign immunity (meaning you  cannot sue the United States unless they give you permission); standing;  and statute of limitations.
The CSUN professor said that in order to  impact the legal cases, the political environment must be much more  favorable, which goes back to H.R.40.
From the business standpoint,  there have been a number of lawsuits filed against corporations that may  have profited from slavery or actually owned slaves. At the local  level, Alderwoman Dorothy Tillman of Chicago has become a leader in this  regard by pushing through the city council an ordinance that requires  corporations who want to do business with the Windy City to fill out an  affidavit stating they did not make a profit off of slavery.
At least  10 other cities around the nation, including Los Angeles, have followed  suit, and this opened the door to prompt corporations like Wachovia  Bank, Aetna, and Chase Bank to re-examine their own histories.
The  educational front is a crucial part of the battle, said Horne, because  it involves helping people inside the community, as well as those  outside, understand what reparations is and why its needed.
And  there is still much educating that needs to be done, contends Horne,  because not even the majority of African Americans agree that  reparations is needed.
Only about half of the Congressional Black  Congress members have supported reparations. Most of the sponsors  Conyers has been able to get are white congresspeople, Horne noted.
The  black church has also been extremely reticent to come to the table, and  Horne said that without the church, the movement will find it difficult  to succeed.
When Chip Murray was still head pastor at FAME, we had  two major conferences about getting ministers, pastors, and church folks  to discuss the issue of how to get the black church involved. They went  very, very well. But we have not yet tried to do that with the new  pastor. . . . There has been no successful black movement in American  society without the church. We need to get the church.
There have  been more white churches that have come forth and said they feel guilty  about participating in slavery, continued Horne.
Education must  also involve the schools, said Horne, who noted that efforts are  ongoing to get reparations included in the curriculum of colleges,  universities, and high schools.
Rutgers University is one of the  institutions of higher learning that has incorporated the subject into  the curriculum.
Horne agrees that retraining of African American  young people to understand their history and what reparations means is  also a key part of the educational effort.
Most people understand  that the reparation fight is not about you and I. Most people involved  know that its for the future, and thats why so much effort must be put  into the educational campaign. Getting young people involved in what is  being done for them, is really, really important. Otherwise when you do  give it (reparations) to them, theyll give it right back. What we have  to do is get them involved. Thats why we are trying to get some rap  artists to write some reparations songs that have a beat, and get youth  into something that is more than Souljah Boy cranking.
The  reparation movement is a chess game that will eventually have an end,  contends Horne. When that end occurs, we have to be well prepared, well  organized, and weve got to know how to win. We have to have a workable  strategy, and that is what we are trying to do.
Contrary to what  many might think, the push for reparations for African Americans is not a  new movement.
According to associate history professor David Horne,  the push for repayment can be traced back to 1815, when Paul Cuffe, a  black man who owned a shipping line, paid for the transportation of  Africans back to the continent.
David Walker, the most fiery black  abolitionist ever, talked about reparations even during slavery, said  Horne. He said it must end, and there must be justiceland and some  kind of independence provided for the former slaves.
Horne pointed  out that these individual efforts did not blossom into a full-fledged  movement until Callie House, a Jim Crow-era political activist, called  for slave pensions in the 1890s. This was the first real solidification  of the reparations movement.
Houses efforts were stymied by the  government, who suspiciously jailed him for mail fraud.
This was  followed by a lull in the fight, that Horne said has been characteristic  of the movement until the 1990s.
Others who flew the banner for  reparations included Marcus Garvey in the early 1900s, and The Nation of  Islam under Elijah Muhammad in the 1950s.
He used to have as part  of the Nation of Islam paper that we want land; we want sovereignty,  Horne said.
The move got another big start with Queen Mother Moore  in the 1960s. She demanded that we get back our land and real  independence, as opposed to having jobs, being able to vote, but not  really being able to be self-sufficient.
Martin Luther King, Jr. and  Malcolm X also talked about the need for reparations.
Horne said the  impetus died again during the 1980s, but was revived once the Civil  Liberties Act for Japanese Americans was signed in 1988.  This  legislation sparked Congressman Conyers, with the help of some black  lawyers including Johnny Cochran, and the National Coalition of Blacks  for Reparations in America, to draft H.R.40.
But perhaps one of the  most critical contemporary boosts came during 1999-2000 from Randall  Robinson of TransAfrica, who that year published The Debt.
Because  of Randalls involvement and going on television and pushing it  (reparations) and getting TransAfrica to push it, that legitimized the  quest for reparations (to) the black middle class. It was at that point,  1999-2000, that reparations actually got pulled into the mainstream. In  the 2000 presidential races, it was put in the Democratic National  Convention, and it got put into the Democratic platform. And in a speech  in 2002-03, Joseph Lowery (co-founder with King of the Southern  Christian Leadership Conference) said that reparations was the next  phase of the Civil Rights Movement.

Questionable morality

Retribution  for past injustices

By Gregg Reese
OW Contributor

The  legacy of slavery casts a long shadow across the national consciousness,  affecting some more than others.
Consider the DeWolf family of  Rhode Island, who have been called the most successful slave-trading  family in American history, having dominated the nations slave trade  for 50 years.  At one point they owned 47 ships and transported at least  10,000 Africans into New World slavery.  In addition to the five  (coffee and sugar) plantations they owned in Cuba, the DeWolfs opened a  bank, an insurance company, and a rum distillery, and by 1812, the  DeWolfs owned more ships than the U.S. Navy.
Some of their  present-day descendents made their way into middle age before being made  aware of this dubious heritage.  One of them, Thomas DeWolf has written  a brutally honest memoir titled Inheriting the Trade: A Northern Family  Confronts Its Legacy as the Largest Slave-Trading Dynasty in U.S.  History (published by Beacon Press, and available at the Los Angles  Librarys main branch), while his cousin Katrina Browne made a  documentary feature film, Traces of the Trade, which was an entry in the  2008 Sundance Film Festival.  That said, let us remember that the vast  majority of the Caucasian citizenry of the country are descended from  people who had no direct ties to the slave trade, and may feel unjustly  penalized by the resources of a tax reserve they contribute to being  used to address past offenses they were not part of.
The concept of  reparations, or compensation, for past offenses is not limited to the  grievances of former victims of the triangle trade (in which molasses,  sugar, tobacco, and rum were transported from the New World to Europe  where they were exchanged for cloth, copper, firearms, and so on, which  was shipped to West Africa, and bartered for slaves earmarked for the  New World in the final phase of the cycle known as the infamous Middle  Passage).
As far as modern historical precedences go, it bears  remembering that dissention surrounded the issue of German reparations  to Israel after World War II.  Many within the government of that  fledgling country (including later Prime Minister Menachem Begin) argued  that accepting payment was tantamount to forgiving the Nazis for war  crimes.  Even after payment was initiated in the 1950s (to the tune of  billions of dollars), claims to reopen the reparation agreement were  broached as recently as 2007, raising the question of whether any  compensation will be adequate.  Ergo, in the case of compensation for  the inhumanity of the slave trade, there is an open-ended question about  how much punitive damages will ever be enough.
Closer to home, the  sufferings of Native Americans (better known as Indians), while not  nearly as well publicized as their African American counterparts, have  been mentioned in connection with possible future reimbursement, as have  the families of Japanese Americans interned during World War II, who  thus far have been reimbursed $20,000 (for each surviving internee) for  their incarceration and the forfeiture of their property.
Returning  to the global arena, the recent international lawsuits by Korean women  pressed into service as comfort women by the Japanese Army during  World War II bear consideration, as well as a possible suit by the  Chinese government against the Japanese for atrocities committed during  the same time period.
Presently, our current presidential election  adds another intriguing facet for consideration in the midst of all the  accusations and counter-accusations being exchanged.  Does the ascension  of Barack Obama through the hallowed ivy-covered walls of Columbia, on  through to the editorial helm of Harvard Law Review and membership in  the U.S. Senate, on to a legitimate shot at the Presidency, mean that  henceforth blacks do not need further handouts or reparations?
As  might be expected there are numerous advocates pro and con, but not  always neatly divided between black and white.  African American Juan  Williams, the Emmy Award-winning writer and senior correspondent for  NPR, covered this topic in a 2001 article for GQ Magazine titled Get a  check? No thanks, in which he argued that many of the recipients of  possible reparations would soon be as bad off or worse, evidenced by the  long litany of poor people made even more destitute after winning  state-sponsored lotteries and then frittering away their prize money.   Awarding reparations will also undoubtedly foster resentment among  Caucasians and other Americans, as well as cheapening gains made by  blacks in much the same way that affirmative action has, and ultimately  hindering future race relations.