Black Americans Deserve Reparations for 246 Years of Free Labor

In 1989 Representative John Conyers of Michigan introduced H.R.40, the “Commission to Study Reparations Proposal for African-Americans Act” to the United States Congress.  Mr. Conyers has introduced a version of this bill every year since its inception and for twenty-seven years this bill has been ignored. One year before H.R.40, in 1988 Congress enacted a law for the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during World War II and provided $20,000 to each surviving detainee ( And based on a report by, as recently as 2012 the United States finalized a $3.4 billion settlement with American Indians.  For Black American slaves and their descendants, America’s repayment has been, “get over it, that was in the past.

According to H.R.40 there were approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants enslaved in the United States.  For 246 years of unprecedented mental and physical abuse, slaves were forced to work from sun up to sun down, in conditions that are unimaginable to most of us today.  They were taken from families and sold to the highest bidder.  They were labeled as property, murdered, beaten, raped, lynched, burned, and mutilated (keeping body parts as souvenirs), starved to death, and bitten by dogs.  Just imagine living under those conditions for 246 years, with no recourse, all constitutionally and statutorily supported by the United States Government.  In the book The Half Has Never Been Told, Edward, E. Baptist said, “Cotton became the most important raw material of the industrial revolution that created our modern world economy.”

Mr. Baptist continued by saying, “Enslaved Africans were the world’s most efficient producers of cotton and they became more efficient every year therefore, driving the United States expansion, enabling the young country to grow from a narrow coastal belt into a vast, powerful nation with the fastest-growing economy in the world.  Between the 1790s and 1820, the United States acquired a near-monopoly on the world’s most widely traded commodity.  After 1820, cotton accounted for a majority of all American exports.”

When slavery ended, Jim Crow was born, and Black Americans continued to feel the cruelty of a ruthless system.  After making the United States the richest nation in the world, while enduring unparalleled centuries of brutality, 151 years after the end of slavery, the compensation to Black Americans is still, “get over it, that happened in the past.”




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