According to USA Today, Lawyers and academics gathered Sept. 16, in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to advance an effort by more than a dozen regional nations to seek slavery reparations from three European countries that benefited from the Atlantic slave trade. The three-day conference was the first major step forward since the 15 member states of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) announced in July that it intended to demand compensation for slavery and the genocide of native people from the governments of Britain, France and the Netherlands.
At the time of emancipation of slaves in 1834, Britain paid 20 million pounds to British planters in the Caribbean, the equivalent of some 200 billion pounds ($315 billion) today. Nothing was paid to the Africans who were enslaved. Below are five member states of Caricom with reparations movements prior to the Sept. 16 event.
Source: USA Tobaday
Jamaica: In 2012, Jamaica revived its reparations commission to consider the question of whether the country should seek an apology or reparations from Britain for its role in the slave trade.
Source: Associated Press
Barbados: In 2012, the Barbadian government established a 12-member Reparations Task Force to be responsible for sustaining local, regional and international momentum for reparations. Barbados is reportedly “currently leading the way in calling for reparations from former colonial powers for the injustices suffered by slaves and their families.”
Source: The Independent
Haiti: France’s most valuable 18th-century colony because of its sugar and coffee production, Haiti became independent in 1804 after a slave revolt. Under the threat of attack from French warships in 1825, the country agreed to pay reparations of 150 million francs (worth $21 billion in today’s dollars) as compensation to former slave owners. Though the amount was cut in 1838, it took Haiti until 1947 to pay off the debt.
Antigua and Barbuda: In 2011, Antigua and Barbuda called for reparations at the United Nations, saying “that segregation and violence against people of African descent had impaired their capacity for advancement as nations, communities and individuals.”
Guyana: In 2007, Guyana called for European nations to pay reparations for the slave trade.
African-Americans: Although African-Americans do not constitute a sovereign nation, it is worth mentioning that our enslavement in the United States has been one of the most important variables in the creation of the nation’s material wealth.
According to Harper’s magazine (November 2000), the United States stole an estimated $100 trillion for 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, with a compounded interest of 6 percent.
The U.S. government’s first reparations plan to compensate African-Americans for the legacy of slavery was 40 acres and a mule apiece — that was Gen. William Sherman’s promise to former slaves shortly after the Civil War ended in 1865.
His order set aside land on the Georgia and South Carolina coasts for the settlement of thousands of newly freed families. But the promise was quickly recanted and the land was taken back, with no other plans for reparations.
Since then, the issue has been revisited time and again by leading civil rights activists. In 1963, for example, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. called Sherman’s promise “a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds.’”
In September 2003, The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) formed a corporation, N’COBRA Legal Defense, Research and Education Fund to develop and implement projects to educate and seek reparations for Africans and people of African descent.