Reparations for African Americans

Opening the debate with this video from 2000 via CSPAN ~ Dr. Mona Love

reparations the chains holding it must be broken

reparations the chains holding it must be broken

SOURCE: The United States Congress via the Library of Congress for Black News and Views Via Dr. Mona Love

H.R.40 — 113th Congress (2013-2014) Reparations for Black People (Complete Document)

Reparations for Black people chains must be broken

FULL TITLE

To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

SUMMARY

Library of Congress
1/3/2013–Introduced.Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act – Establishes the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the …

HR 40 IH

113th CONGRESS

1st Session

H. R. 40

To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

January 3, 2013

Mr. CONYERS introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

A BILL

To acknowledge the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to examine the institution of slavery, subsequently de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act’.

SEC. 2. FINDINGS AND PURPOSE.
(a) Findings- The Congress finds that–
(1) approximately 4,000,000 Africans and their descendants were enslaved in the United States and colonies that became the United States from 1619 to 1865;
(2) the institution of slavery was constitutionally and statutorily sanctioned by the Government of the United States from 1789 through 1865;
(3) the slavery that flourished in the United States constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of Africans’ life, liberty, African citizenship rights, and cultural heritage, and denied them the fruits of their own labor; and
(4) sufficient inquiry has not been made into the effects of the institution of slavery on living African-Americans and society in the United States.
(b) Purpose- The purpose of this Act is to establish a commission to–
(1) examine the institution of slavery which existed from 1619 through 1865 within the United States and the colonies that became the United States, including the extent to which the Federal and State Governments constitutionally and statutorily supported the institution of slavery;
(2) examine de jure and de facto discrimination against freed slaves and their descendants from the end of the Civil War to the present, including economic, political, and social discrimination;
(3) examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the discrimination described in paragraph (2) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States;
(4) recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings;
(5) recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission’s findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1) and (2); and
(6) submit to the Congress the results of such examination, together with such recommendations.

SEC. 3. ESTABLISHMENT AND DUTIES.
(a) Establishment- There is established the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans (hereinafter in this Act referred to as the ‘Commission’).
(b) Duties- The Commission shall perform the following duties:
(1) Examine the institution of slavery which existed within the United States and the colonies that became the United States from 1619 through 1865. The Commission’s examination shall include an examination of–
(A) the capture and procurement of Africans;
(B) the transport of Africans to the United States and the colonies that became the United States for the purpose of enslavement, including their treatment during transport;
(C) the sale and acquisition of Africans as chattel property in interstate and intrastate commerce; and
(D) the treatment of African slaves in the colonies and the United States, including the deprivation of their freedom, exploitation of their labor, and destruction of their culture, language, religion, and families.
(2) Examine the extent to which the Federal and State governments of the United States supported the institution of slavery in constitutional and statutory provisions, including the extent to which such governments prevented, opposed, or restricted efforts of freed African slaves to repatriate to their homeland.
(3) Examine Federal and State laws that discriminated against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
(4) Examine other forms of discrimination in the public and private sectors against freed African slaves and their descendants during the period between the end of the Civil War and the present.
(5) Examine the lingering negative effects of the institution of slavery and the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4) on living African-Americans and on society in the United States.
(6) Recommend appropriate ways to educate the American public of the Commission’s findings.
(7) Recommend appropriate remedies in consideration of the Commission’s findings on the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4). In making such recommendations, the Commission shall address among other issues, the following questions:
(A) Whether the Government of the United States should offer a formal apology on behalf of the people of the United States for the perpetration of gross human rights violations on African slaves and their descendants.
(B) Whether African-Americans still suffer from the lingering effects of the matters described in paragraphs (1), (2), (3), and (4).
(C) Whether, in consideration of the Commission’s findings, any form of compensation to the descendants of African slaves is warranted.
(D) If the Commission finds that such compensation is warranted, what should be the amount of compensation, what form of compensation should be awarded, and who should be eligible for such compensation.
(c) Report to Congress- The Commission shall submit a written report of its findings and recommendations to the Congress not later than the date which is one year after the date of the first meeting of the Commission held pursuant to section 4(c).

SEC. 4. MEMBERSHIP.
(a) Number and Appointment- (1) The Commission shall be composed of 7 members, who shall be appointed, within 90 days after the date of enactment of this Act, as follows:
(A) Three members shall be appointed by the President.
(B) Three members shall be appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
(C) One member shall be appointed by the President pro tempore of the Senate.
(2) All members of the Commission shall be persons who are especially qualified to serve on the Commission by virtue of their education, training, or experience, particularly in the field of African-American studies.
(b) Terms- The term of office for members shall be for the life of the Commission. A vacancy in the Commission shall not affect the powers of the Commission and shall be filled in the same manner in which the original appointment was made.
(c) First Meeting- The President shall call the first meeting of the Commission within 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act or within 30 days after the date on which legislation is enacted making appropriations to carry out this Act, whichever date is later.
(d) Quorum- Four members of the Commission shall constitute a quorum, but a lesser number may hold hearings.
(e) Chair and Vice Chair- The Commission shall elect a Chair and Vice Chair from among its members. The term of office of each shall be for the life of the Commission.
(f) Compensation- (1) Except as provided in paragraph (2), each member of the Commission shall receive compensation at the daily equivalent of the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code, for each day, including travel time, during which he or she is engaged in the actual performance of duties vested in the Commission.
(2) A member of the Commission who is a full-time officer or employee of the United States or a Member of Congress shall receive no additional pay, allowances, or benefits by reason of his or her service to the Commission.
(3) All members of the Commission shall be reimbursed for travel, subsistence, and other necessary expenses incurred by them in the performance of their duties to the extent authorized by chapter 57 of title 5, United States Code.

SEC. 5. POWERS OF THE COMMISSION.
(a) Hearings and Sessions- The Commission may, for the purpose of carrying out the provisions of this Act, hold such hearings and sit and act at such times and at such places in the United States, and request the attendance and testimony of such witnesses and the production of such books, records, correspondence, memoranda, papers, and documents, as the Commission considers appropriate. The Commission may request the Attorney General to invoke the aid of an appropriate United States district court to require, by subpoena or otherwise, such attendance, testimony, or production.
(b) Powers of Subcommittees and Members- Any subcommittee or member of the Commission may, if authorized by the Commission, take any action which the Commission is authorized to take by this section.
(c) Obtaining Official Data- The Commission may acquire directly from the head of any department, agency, or instrumentality of the executive branch of the Government, available information which the Commission considers useful in the discharge of its duties. All departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the executive branch of the Government shall cooperate with the Commission with respect to such information and shall furnish all information requested by the Commission to the extent permitted by law.

SEC. 6. ADMINISTRATIVE PROVISIONS.
(a) Staff- The Commission may, without regard to section 5311(b) of title 5, United States Code, appoint and fix the compensation of such personnel as the Commission considers appropriate.
(b) Applicability of Certain Civil Service Laws- The staff of the Commission may be appointed without regard to the provisions of title 5, United States Code, governing appointments in the competitive service, and without regard to the provisions of chapter 51 and subchapter III of chapter 53 of such title relating to classification and General Schedule pay rates, except that the compensation of any employee of the Commission may not exceed a rate equal to the annual rate of basic pay payable for GS-18 of the General Schedule under section 5332 of title 5, United States Code.
(c) Experts and Consultants- The Commission may procure the services of experts and consultants in accordance with the provisions of section 3109(b) of title 5, United States Code, but at rates for individuals not to exceed the daily equivalent of the highest rate payable under section 5332 of such title.
(d) Administrative Support Services- The Commission may enter into agreements with the Administrator of General Services for procurement of financial and administrative services necessary for the discharge of the duties of the Commission. Payment for such services shall be made by reimbursement from funds of the Commission in such amounts as may be agreed upon by the Chairman of the Commission and the Administrator.
(e) Contracts- The Commission may–
(1) procure supplies, services, and property by contract in accordance with applicable laws and regulations and to the extent or in such amounts as are provided in appropriations Acts; and
(2) enter into contracts with departments, agencies, and instrumentalities of the Federal Government, State agencies, and private firms, institutions, and agencies, for the conduct of research or surveys, the preparation of reports, and other activities necessary for the discharge of the duties of the Commission, to the extent or in such amounts as are provided in appropriations Acts.

SEC. 7. TERMINATION.
The Commission shall terminate 90 days after the date on which the Commission submits its report to the Congress under section 3(c).

SEC. 8. AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS.
To carry out the provisions of this Act, there are authorized to be appropriated $8,000,000.

STATUS

This bill was assigned to a congressional committee on January 3, 2013, which will consider it before possibly sending it on to the House or Senate as a whole.

PROGRESS
Introduced Jan 03, 2013
Referred to Committee Jan 03, 2013
Reported by Committee…
Passed House…
Passed Senate…
Signed by the President…

PROGNOSIS
2% chance of getting past committee.
0% chance of being enacted.
Only 11% of House bills made it past committee and only 3% were enacted in 2011–2013. [show factors |methodology]

COSPONSORS
none

COMMITTEES
House Judiciary
↪ The Constitution

The committee chair determines whether a bill will move past the committee stage.
Source: The Library of Congress via Dr. Mona Love for Black News and Views

Source:

African studdies quarterly

African studdies quarterly

POLITICAL VERSUS LEGAL STRATEGIES FOR THE AFRICAN SLAVERLY REPARATIONS MOVEMENT.©

Ricardo Rene Laremont

In 1992 Chief Moshood K. 0. Abiola instigated the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) Group of Eminent Persons for Reparations. The original members of this group included Ali Mazrui, Jacob Ade Ajayi, and Ambassador Dudley Thompson. The OAU charged this group with pressing the political agenda for reparations for the African slave trade. In 1993 the OAU Group of Eminent Persons convened the First Pan-African Conference on Reparations in Abuja, Nigeria where it adopted the Abuja Declaration that officially committed the OAU to obtain reparations for slavery.

I fully believe that there are legitimate moral reasons for the payment of reparations to African peoples by those who were responsible for the instigation of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. During the barbarous period of the slave trade, at least thirteen million Africans were illegally transported from the shores of West Africa to the Western Hemisphere. Of those thirteen million, approximately 11, 3 2 8, 000 were delivered to the New World, amounting to the trans-shipment murder of approximately 1,672,000 persons of 13% or the cargo(1). These are extremely conservative figures that do not truly account for the murders entailed.

I want to go beyond moral arguments for reparations to the discussion of legal and political strategies for the reparations movement. I believe that we need to move from the discussion of legitimate claims to the development of strategies to satisfy those claims. In my discussion, I will reflect upon the successful reparations movement undertaken by Japanese Americans in the United States.

I do not dispute that harm has been inflicted upon Africans both in Africa and in the Americas because of the slave trade. When harm has been inflicted, a cause of action can be created in the law for the satisfaction of that claim of harm. Reparations have been paid for the harm inflicted on a class or race of people. For example, since World War II, Germany has paid at least 88 billion Deutsche Marks in reparations to the state of Israel and will pay another 20 billion (2) Deutsche Marks by the year 2005. The United States Government has paid $1.2 billion or $20,000 per person for each Japanese American illegally imprisoned in American concentration camps during World War II. Further, the American government has issued an apology for the illegal imprisonment of the Japanese in America. Presently, the Chinese have discussed the possibility of suing the government of Japan for the atrocities committed during the capture of the city of Nanking, which resulted in the systematic murder of more than 300,000 Chinese by Japanese soldiers during World War II. “Comfort women” from Korea who were forced into prostitution during World War II by the Japanese have similarly organized to sue the government of Japan for reparations. A legal suit for reparations to a race of peoples has been recognized in international, German, and American law. States may be held liable for damages caused to a class or race of peoples. The case of reparations paid to Japanese Americans by the American government and the case of reparations paid to Israel by Germany establish those precedents.

The question before us is whether the African slavery reparations movement should pursue legal paths or political paths for the satisfaction of their claims. Perhaps both paths may be pursued. Among the questions to be addressed are the advantages and disadvantages of both approaches.

If the reparations movement were to pursue its claim in a court of international law, the movement could try to obtain a day in court by claiming that the states that participated in the slave trade were guilty of conscious genocide against a race of peoples. As mentioned earlier, the traders who participated in the slave trade conservatively lost at least 13 per cent of their cargo or 1.67 million souls during their transhipment of slaves. The numbers involved, their inhumane handling during transhipment, and their resultant deaths would establish a prima facie case of genocide on these facts alone. The colonial powers responsible for the slave trade (the British, French, Dutch, and Portuguese) would be responsible for African deaths that occurred during transhipment. Payment would, therefore, have to be made to those West African states that lost its kidnapped nationals at sea during the illegal slave trade. This is a narrowly constructed argument that claims damages for this narrow class of persons. It does not begin to address the larger issues of reparations for damages to Africans in Africa and the Americas emerging from the slave trade.

Reparations for damages done to a race of people have precedents in international, German, and American law. The question then becomes how the African reparations movement can pursue this claim.

Genocide has been defined by the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This convention became enforceable in 1951. The Convention defines “genocide” as the “intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial, or religious group by (a) killing members of the group; (b) causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group c) deliberately inflicting on the group the conditions of life calculated to bring about its destruction in whole or in part; (d) imposing measures to prevent births within the group; or (e) forcibly transferring children of the group to another group” (3). Although this Convention defining genocide exists, the critical question for the reparations movement is whether the states that have suffered because of the slave trade can sue in a court of justice to satisfy their claim for reparations.

It would seem that the interested parties in reparations would have a claim that needs satisfaction. The next set of questions then involve the venue of the suit and the question of whether a statute of limitations applies. If the reparations movement were to sue in a court of international law, there may be several advantages. First, it would obviate the necessity and costs of suing in the separate courts of England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands. Second, fixing the venue of the lawsuit in an international court (like the International Court of Justice) would give it maximum international media exposure. The next question then becomes whether the International Court of Justice would have the jurisdiction to hear and order the satisfaction of such a complaint.

If the reparations movement were to sue the colonial powers for damages resultant from the slave trade in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the ICJ would have the authority to review and adjudicate such a complaint. The ICJ has the jurisdiction to resolve disputes between states. Its only proviso is that litigants in its court must consent to the jurisdiction of the court. If the defendants in the reparations case (England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands) were not to consent to the jurisdiction of the court, the case could not proceed. The ICJ also has no apparent statute of limitations. So, the fact that the original harm created by the slave trade occurred in previous centuries does not provide an obstacle to litigation.

If the defendant states were not to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ, all is not lost. The reparations movement could still press the General Assembly of the United Nations to adopt two alternate courses of action. First, using the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals as models, the reparations movement could press the General Assembly to create a Tribunal to charge England, France, Spain, Portugal, and the Netherlands for “crimes against humanity” for the creation and perpetuation of the African slave trade. This course of action would be profitable because the Nuremberg Tribunal defined “crimes against humanity” as:

murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial, or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.

This definition precisely applies to the African slave trade. Second, the invocation of the Nuremberg Tribunal as precedent is profitable because the definition of “crimes against humanity” was applied retroactively to the Germans involved in the genocide. The acceptability of this retroactive application of the definition is very important because, if the General Assembly were to create an African Slave Trade Tribunal it could apply the very definition of “crimes against humanity” used at the Nuremberg Tribunal and the retroactive application of that definition.

Besides the creation of a Tribunal to hear charges of crimes against humanity conducted during the African slave trade, the reparations movement could also consider the creation of an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to try persons or states responsible for serious breaches of international humanitarian law. This approach was used to create the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia and of the creation of the Rwanda tribunal. This approach, while available on a purely theoretical basis, would be more difficult to implement because these proceedings imagine the prosecution of criminals as individuals rather than criminal activities undertaken by states qua states. For these reasons, the creation of a Nuremberg-style or Tokyo style Tribunal would seem more appropriate for the African slavery reparations movement.

Besides these legal approaches, one must ask oneself whether political versus legal approaches must also be considered. For example, in the United States, Congressman John Conyers of the State of Michigan introduced H.R. 40 in 1997 which, if enacted, would establish a commission to examine the possibility of payment of reparations to persons of African ancestry in the United States. Reparations payments would be made for damages resultant from the creation of the slave trade. This legislative course of action has already begun in the United States. To my knowledge, another legislative course of action has also been discussed in the House of Lords in Great Britain. As far as I know, similar legislation has not been considered in France, Spain, Portugal, or the Netherlands.

The use of a legislative instead of a legal course of action for reparations has precedent in the United States. On August 10, 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed H. R. 442 that authorized the payment of reparations to Japanese Americans who were illegally imprisoned in American concentration camps during World War II. During World War II, the United States government imprisoned nearly all Japanese and Japanese Americans residing in the United States (nearly 120,000 of them) simply because they were Japanese. The Department of War decided to jail the Japanese en masse because they considered them as a community a threat to the security of the United States. The money that was authorized for reparations was accompanied by a formal apology by the United States President to the Japanese Americans who were imprisoned during that period of time. Because of the enactment of H.R. 442, the Japanese and Japanese American survivors of the concentration camps became eligible for monetary reparations of $20,000 each. They also received a formal letter of apology from the President of the United States.

Although the Japanese Reparations Movement began pressing its claims legally and politically with vigor in 1978, it had to wait ten years for the satisfactory legislative resolution of their claims. The courts initially dismissed the initial claims for reparations. These decisions denying reparations were eventually appealed to the Supreme Court. After ten years of litigation the Supreme Court in United States v. Hohri ultimately remanded the reparations case back to the original court for retrial. Ten years of trials had garnered almost nothing. Litigation had proved costly and, ultimately, fruitless. For the Japanese, some bitter satisfaction would be obtained from the political process rather than the legal one.

In the final analysis, Japanese Americans obtained reparations from the political process rather than the legal process. Ten years of litigation did not yield results. Ten years of coordinated political action, however, did eventually result in legislation that provided reparations to the survivors of the concentration camps. By consistently agitating and operating in solidarity as a lobbying group, Japanese Americans pressured Congress to enact reparations. They waged their battle in the arenas of public relations and lobbying rather than litigation. The Japanese engaged in informational and political programs that successfully vindicated their claims. Their efforts in the courts, while diligent, were ineffective.

The question for us in the African Slavery Reparations movement is whether our efforts to obtain reparations should involve political or legal tactics to obtain our objectives. We also need to examine whether the venues for our political and legal efforts should take place in international or national arenas. What is clear from the Japanese American Reparations movement in the United States is that litigation in the American courts can be very costly and bear little results. It is not clear at all that any person or entity would have legal standing to sue in American courts for reparations for slavery.

If the legal avenue may prove fruitless, the question then becomes whether Americans should support Congressman Conyers’ H.R. 40. His bill would require the creation of a Commission to study the question of reparations; it is not a demand for reparations. Is it in our interests to support a bill that merely studies the question of reparations rather than demanding reparations? The Japanese American experience proves that the legislative process may bear fruit for the reparations movement. Our pursuit of this alternative will be full of challenges, however. If reparations are to be paid to African Americans for the damages of slavery, who will actually be paid? Who is an African American? Is the multi-racial golfer Tiger Woods, for example, an African American or an Asian American? Would he be eligible for reparations? How about Caribbean Americans? Would they be eligible or excluded? The advantage that the Japanese Americans had was that they had a specific number of persons who were eligible for reparations. Calculations of the persons to receive benefits and the amounts to be paid could be definitely fixed. For African Americans, the number of beneficiaries and the amounts to be calculated will be quite a challenge.

On the other hand, if litigation is pursued in an international venue, the Nuremburg or Tokyo Tribunal model for “crimes against humanity” may be promising. The definition of that crime specifically applies to the case of African slavery and its aftermath. The retrospective application of that definition of the crime would also be useful in an international forum for justice.

Notes

(1) Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade: The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade, 1440-1870 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), 804-805.

(2) Iris Chang, The Rape of Nanking The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II (New York Basic Books. 1997). 222.

(3) Article II

http://www.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v2/v2i4a3.htm

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