Letter to Biden on Reparations Committee

On June 21st, eleven U.S. Senators including Cory Booker, Bernard Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to President Biden urging him to establish a Presidential Commission to study and issue proposals on a national apology and reparations for African Americans.

As the letters goes on the state, the “legacy of slavery remains with us today and is compounded by ongoing racism and discrimination. […] We must fully document the harms inflicted upon African Americans throughout our history, confront the egregious inequalities we see today with the knowledge of their deep roots, and seek to help African American families and communities realize the promise of equality and opportunity that this country has always purported to offer.”

To read the full letter, please visit our page on Government Redress.


Coalition to Rename Calhoun Square after Susie King Taylor

“Savannah wouldn’t be Savannah without its history but some of it leaves a stain. Calhoun Square off Taylor Street is named after John Calhoun, a former South Carolina politician who supported slavery.

Patt Gunn, the founder of the coalition to rename Calhoun Square, said, “We also don’t want someone who’s a pro-slavery advocate in the middle of a public square with my tax dollars.”

She’s been leading a coalition for two years to rename it after someone they say deserves it – Susie King Taylor.”

As of May 2022, the coalition has finally met the 51% requirement needed to move forward, meaning that the square will likely be renamed.

Efforts to rename public spaces have been crucial in ongoing reparations, as this type of historical acknowledgement constitutes a substantial portion of satisfaction-focused redress. For more examples of successful renaming efforts, visit AARN’s Redress Map.


Descendants of the St. Louis University Enslaved (DSLUE)

DSLUE was formed by three Missouri family groups, descendants of people enslaved by the Jesuits and made to build and sustain Saint Louis University from 1823-1865. In 2021, these families came together to honor their ancestors, to preserve heritage and legacy and to seek reparative justice for the generational devastation that enslavement had on their bloodline. In other words, their mission is to commemorate, preserve, educate, and seek repair through the creation of a 501(c)(3) heritage preservation and cultural education association.

DSLUE is currently working on several initiatives that will aid them in their goals. In the coming weeks they will launch their website,, which will host historical data and analysis on St. Louis’ history of enslavement with support of scholars, Dr. Kelly Schmidt and Ayan Bashir, leading historians in the field of Jesuit enslavement. The website will act as a central location where people can learn about this history, ongoing research, genealogy, advocacy and current DSLUE initiatives, programs and events. There is currently a campaign designed to suppress the truth of the history of this nation, and DSLUEs efforts are to ensure that America’s true history is brought to the masses for generations to come. One of the ways DSLUE is working to bring awareness about their journey is the creation of a short documentary film called “Who Are The DSLUE,” and efforts to get funding for a full length documentary film are underway. The organization is also working on hosting its first annual DSLUE Family Heritage Week, kicking off June 11, 2022, offering opportunities for ancestral commemoration and memorization. 

DSLUE is working to bring together not only descendants of those who were enslaved during the Jesuit slaveholding diaspora, but other descendant communities, like those of Brown Grove and Tulsa, to support one another in their efforts for healing and for justice. 

AARN is proud to work alongside the Descendants of the St. Louis University Enslaved (DSLUE) on their efforts to secure reparations!


The Legacy of Colored School No. 4 with Eric K. Washington

In December, AARN published a letter urging the New York Landmarks Preservation Commission to act upon the Request for Evaluation of Colored School No. 4 for designation as an Individual Landmark.

This April, Eric K. Washington gave a talk on the topic, speaking on the legacy of former Colored School No. 4 in Chelsea. Eric K. Washington, an independent historian and author, endeavors to reconnect forgotten history to present landscapes through articles, talks and tours. His extensive work on Colored School No. 4 is a critical reminder of the City’s segregationist education policy and history, which is not yet widely discussed or well-understood.

“Colored” schools were the cultural centers of New York’s African American communities, and this school became a pillar to the immediate community. It also was integral to an informal network of other African American schools, churches, enterprises, missions and societies that anchored the growing Black enclaves of lower Manhattan. It is vital to preserve this last remaining “colored” school in Manhattan to commemorate African Americans’ heritage in the City.

Learn more in Eric K. Washington’s presentation here.


Mapping Updates!

We are happy to announce a few updates to our redress map. Notably, we have added reparation subheadings under each entry to provide more details into the efforts. For example, while looking at examples of satisfaction-oriented redress, you can now see if it is an apology, acknowledgement, commemoration, or historical analysis (amongst others).

As well, 42 new entries were added, including a brand new section to the map: West North Central. Lastly, land loss and discrimination have now been added as historical injustices.

In the coming months, we will continue to add to the map, with a specific focus on placing the descendant communities at the forefront of redress efforts. You can find AARN’s redress map here.


Reparations 2022 Conference

On April 1st and 2nd, AARN participated in our 3rd Annual Reparations Conference: Reparations 2022!

Reparations 2022 brought together leading reparations advocates and activists to share strategies and strengthen efforts. The online program brought in over 100 participants, while the in-person cohort, which convened at Howard University’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, hosted 45 representatives from 17 municipal reparation efforts across the country. The conference was created as a collaboration between FirstRepair, African American Redress Network (AARN), and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

Participants commented on the quality and depth of panels, presentations, and conversations experienced throughout the conference. A conference report is forthcoming. This report will be co-authored by community members present both online and in-person.


AARN @ Undesign the Redline

On November 20, 2021, AARN participated in Barnard College’s Undesign the Redline symposium. Undesign the Redline @ Barnard is an interactive exhibition combining history, art, and storytelling with community outreach and collaboration in order to reckon with systemic racism by examining the legacy of redlining in Barnard and Columbia’s neighborhood.

Following efforts to map the history of redlining in Morningside Heights and Harlem to its present day legacies, AARN presented on how to remedy the redline. Using a human rights framework, Dr. Linda Mann, James Lennox, Corey Shaw Jr., Irene Jang, and Claire Choi explained the necessity of reparations for those who have been subjected to this redlining, and what such reparations may look like.

Watch the video now to learn more:


Reparations 2022 Conference

Reparations 2022 will bring together leading reparations advocates and activists to share strategies and strengthen efforts. The online program will take place April 01, 9:00am to 4:30pm EST and April 2nd, 9:00am to 4:00pm EST. The in-person cohort will convene at Howard University’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, DC with 45 representatives from 17 municipal reparation efforts across the country. The conference was created as a collaboration between FirstRepair, African American Redress Network (AARN), and the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).

The online conference agenda is provided below. This will be a powerful and inspiring conference. We hope you can attend as many sessions as possible.

To register and participate, please sign up using the following link: See you there!


ACTEC: The Fight for Justice, Reparations and Bruce’s Beach

In 1912, Black entrepreneurs Charles and Willa Bruce purchased a beachfront property in Manhattan Beach, California. “Bruce’s Beach,” which included a dance hall and café, was a favorite destination resort for Black families. In 1927, eminent domain was used by the city of Manhattan Beach to seize the property with the plan to create a park. With increased national awareness and the Black Lives Matter movement, a renewed demand for justice propelled the issue into the state and national discussion. On September 30, 2021, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill No. 796, which cleared the path for the Bruce’s heirs to have the property returned to them.

In this video, ACTEC Fellow Terrence M. Franklin moderates a discussion between George C. Fatheree III, a real estate attorney with Sidley Austin, LLP, and Kavon Ward, a land-rights activist and co-founder of “Where is my Land.” George has a pro bono engagement representing the living descendants of Charles and Willa Bruce and will share details of the legal actions regarding the property. Kavon was instrumental in bringing awareness to Bruce’s Beach injustice and racial discrimination and land rights to the national conversation. They discuss the details in this video.

For the full transcript and further resources, visit the article here. To explore more reparations efforts, visit AARN’s Redress Map here.


PBS Video: In environmental justice battle, church anchors Brown Grove

“It’s always just encroachment…so the people are steadily moving out or being pushed out, and my fear is the community; how long would it last?”

The Brown Grove community has been the recipient of industrial sprawl and displacement over the past half-century including the development of Interstate 95, a municipal airport, a truck stop, a concrete plant, and an expansion of I-95. The latest impending assault is the planned construction of a Wegmans distribution center. The planned distribution center measures more than 1.1 million square feet.

Please watch a recent production on the Brown Grove community and their efforts to fight back against environmental justice. VPM News Focal Point, a local public television program presented by PBP’s, highlights the recent issues regarding Wegmans attempt to build a new 24/7 facility. The film anchors the discussion of industrial sprawl with the Brown Grove Baptist Church, an over 150-year-old predominantly Black church.

AARN is working alongside Brown Grove Preservation Group to stop the development of Wegmans and preserve the African American historical sites. To learn more about these efforts, visit our Technical Assistance page here.

Watch the video here, and find the full article here.


“Equity, Equality, and Repair”: the African-American Redress Network’s Mission: THE EYE

By Lilienne Shore Kilgore-Brown

When Linda J. Mann arrived at Columbia’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights as a fellow for the Alliance for Historical Dialogue and Accountability, she quickly noticed something.

While researching for the Georgetown Memory Project—designed to address the legacies of the 272 enslaved people Georgetown University sold to Louisiana plantations in 1838—she discovered a large number of initiatives across the nation aimed at addressing and providing reparations for past atrocities committed against Black people in America. However, the groups were mostly working separately from one another.

“They may or may not have [had] institutional support; they may or may not have [had] a political backing, and many of them were working in silos without knowledge that there were other organizations, maybe even 45 minutes away,” Mann said. Many of these reparations efforts were being led by small groups, and some by just one or two particularly passionate individuals.

Mann, who now has an appointment at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA), soon began reaching out to a cross-section of these groups and individuals addressing reparations: academics, but also museum curators, lawyers, and, as Mann put it, “most important[ly], members from local redress organizations.” In the fall of 2018, with the essential help of SIPA professor Elazar Barkan, they brought everyone together for their first convening—over two days, the 35 attendees shared, discussed, debated, and eventually decided to create a network.

Immediately after, Mann approached professor Justin Hansford, who serves as the executive director for the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center at the School of Law at Howard University—an institution she had previously collaborated with—in the hopes that they could work together to start building a network. According to Mann, Hansford was the only person she could imagine co-founding the network with, not unfoundedly. A notable and “leading scholar and activist in the areas of critical race theory, human rights, and law and social movements”—as detailed on his faculty listing at the Howard University School of Law website—Hansford was recently elected to serve on the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent. As Mann continuously emphasized, Hansford’s involvement proved paramount to the initial formation of the network. Soon after Hansford’s agreement, and following much discussion and logistical debate, the African-American Redress Network was born.

AARN, now well established with a growing steering committee and internship base, is an organization that operates on a local, state, and federal level to interact with, provide support to, connect, and assist organizations and individuals working in reparations and racial redress. Such groups are usually directly identified by AARN, though some also approach the network, asking to join. At present, AARN provides technical assistance to the local redress efforts they partner with, offering legal advocacy and archival and genealogical research. They also become incredibly invested in each community they work with.

“The only thing that matters is that you say that this is a collaboration with Howard … and that we [Columbia] are, as a PWI [predominantly white institution], listening to Black communities and we are serving as an ally in their efforts,” Mann stated.

Acknowledging her position as a “white researcher and practitioner,” she wanted to ensure that AARN was, first and foremost, Black-led. Students and faculty at Howard’s Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center, particularly managing director, Billi Wilkerson, provide invaluable perspectives, both as members of a historically Black university, and through their ability to view the projects AARN tackles through a legal mindset, which directly complements the human rights perspective the students and faculty of SIPA work from. As AARN has grown, though, it is not just SIPA and Thurgood Marshall students that have become involved—undergraduates, too, have made their mark on the organization, spearheading projects in “one-man-band” operations with the ardent support of the larger network.

Ilana Hamer, a senior in the joint program between the School of General Studies and the Jewish Theological Seminary as well as an intern at AARN, could not be more eager to talk about the critical work AARN is doing.

As a human rights major, Hamer has always had an interest in adjacent fields, though she had not worked specifically in reparations before. As a result, she is learning a lot—especially since she is at the forefront of creating, posting, and promoting engaging educational content for AARN’s social media platforms. At present, Hamer runs the social media mostly by herself, a rather substantial task as AARN continues to grow and create more partnerships. However, Hamer finds great pleasure in her work and tackles it with tenacity. Because of AARN’s flexibility and encouragement of its interns to do the work they find interesting and fulfilling, Hamer was able to establish herself as the social media manager—she and a small team worked to develop the website, strengthen AARN’s Instagram and Facebook presence, and create a Twitter. The streams are filled with features of the steering committee and interns, information about ongoing projects, and more general posts detailing historical events. More recently, Hamer was asked about other things she might be interested in doing, and now, after mentioning her enthusiasm for event planning, she is helping to coordinate the 2022 Convening.

Before social media and event planning, though, Hamer was a part of the team developing the star of the AARN website—the Redress Map. The Redress Map uses ArcGIS technology to show locations around the country where groups and organizations are working on reparations for the tragedies they are addressing, both past and present. During the initial mapping, the AARN identified approximately 100 local redress efforts in the Southeast—today, it has mapped around 500 throughout the entire country.

To be included on the map, redress efforts have to meet certain criteria through a systematic human rights framework. This framework acknowledges five categories of reparations: satisfaction, which might be an acknowledgment of a tragedy or the removal or erection of a memorial; restitution, which would include the return of land; rehabilitation, such as mental and physical health services; compensation, which is giving some form of money; and, finally, guarantees of non repetition, which is creating mitigation “that would aim to alter systemic racism within the structures of an institutional organization.”

Once organizations are identified, they need a point person at AARN. This is where intern Pat Lilly comes in. Lilly, a General Studies student, serves as the communications assistant, acting as the middle man between the larger organization and the smaller, local groups and individuals seeking to establish partnerships. Though an intern, Lilly appears to be a cornerstone of the organization. In every interview for this piece, her praises were sung. “You must speak to Pat Lilly,” Mann said, grinning from ear to ear, while Hamer introduced her as “wonderful”. And indeed, Lilly is warm, clear, and thoughtful: A self-proclaimed lover of learning, she has a wealth of knowledge and is deeply dedicated to her work at AARN.

“They’re so passionate when they talk about it,” Lilly said of the local redress effort organizations she interacts with. “You can feel it, so powerful, so emotional … That’s, for me, the most interesting part, to hear their stories and to realize the harms that were done to them.”

Lilly feels a particular connection to a project in Africatown, Alabama. Founded in 1859 for the preservation of African traditions, the community was started by the enslaved people brought to the United States on the Clotilda, the last recorded ship—filled entirely with young children—to bring enslaved Africans to the United States. The Redress Map lists the goals of the Clotilda project as satisfaction and truth-seeking. They aim to unearth exactly what happened, to discover any descendants that may still be alive, and, in general, to educate the public about the event. Lilly said the community has planned lantern walks from the school to the cemetery “where the elders are buried”.

Lilly initially got involved with AARN through a class with an internship requirement. As a full-time employee on the Manhattanville campus, Lilly was concerned about having enough time to commit, but AARN ended up being perfect for her. The evening meetings did not conflict with Lilly’s day job, and the organization has been flexible in letting the interns determine how much time they can give. In general, AARN has also been very accommodating, with Mann having agreed to meet with Lilly as early as 7:30 in the morning.

As AARN has grown, it is not just Howard and Columbia students getting involved. Corey Shaw, a senior at the University of the District of Columbia, has spent a large amount of his time working with AARN since the fall. During the day, he works with emergency service programs in his district for nonprofit civil rights organizations. Last semester, he was working on collecting oral histories for the Chevy Chase project, specifically following the legacy of George Pointer, who was born into slavery, Pointer bought his own freedom for $300 before becoming a supervisory engineer at the Potomac River company. After Pointer’s death, the land he owned and lived on was destroyed by the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, which also displaced his family. When Mann went to talk to his class, Shaw was drawn into working for AARN.

Shaped by his upbringing in the South and the fact that his great-great-great-grandfather was enslaved, Shaw had written his thesis on reparations the previous semester.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about, honestly, since I was a kid,” Shaw explained.

Along with the Chevy Chase project, he is especially interested in the effort to get recognition and protection for the Mount Zion Female Union Band Society Cemetery (which had a bike path built through it in the ’30s without disinterring bodies, and was, peculiarly, condemned by the District Health Department in the ’70s, despite its numerous connections to African American history), and Brown Grove, where a Wegmans distribution center was slated to be built in a location that may have housed African American burial grounds.

“I’m almost certain that they’re connected,” Shaw said of these three projects, partially joking, but mostly not, as he detailed how those who were displaced at one site moved to the location of another. “I cannot stop talking about them. Brown Grove is amazing, and the cemetery and Chevy Chase are just—wow.”

Luckily for someone who can’t stop talking, Shaw’s current project at AARN is the development of a podcast titled Let’s Talk Reparations. For Black History Month, he is putting together a short form series called The Crossroads: Preservation and Reparation. This podcast “is going to serve as a platform for descendant communities, activists to come and share their stories.” He is already slated to do episodes about Brown Grove and the preservation of Colored School No. 4 in Chelsea, an effort spearheaded by Columbia Community Scholar and independent historian Eric K. Washington; Shaw believes that these episodes will generate more public involvement with the featured descendant communities.

Although Shaw had not podcasted before aside from a few class projects, he is excited about the work, and the audience engagement has already exceeded his expectations.

Shaw is not the only AARN member who loves his job; every interviewee spoke with great pride about their work and remarked on how delighted they are to have become involved in AARN. Lilly noted an incredible passion among the members, saying that many of them had barely started their tenure at AARN when she first joined the team, but that “it seemed like they’d been there forever.”

Mann, as co-founder, could not be prouder of the students.

“Let me just give a shout out to the student volunteers at AARN,” she said. “They are incredible. They are dedicated; they’re genius. I think they’re brilliant, and I’m so grateful to every single one of them. In many ways, we are a student-led organization, as well. I look at everything we do as a fellowship—I don’t see a hierarchy.” Such feelings of admiration are wholly reciprocated by Hamer, Lilly, and Shaw.

For the interns, the learning opportunities they encounter have proved hugely valuable. Lilly, for example, has begun to see her day job in a new light. At Manhattanville, she serves as the senior manager of community engagement in the Forum Building, where it is her job to draw the community in. When a community member is standing at the gates, unsure if they are welcome on campus, Lilly sees it as her duty to show them that they belong. She helps in coordinating events such as “Saturday Science”—a Zuckerman Institute program held in the Jerome L. Greene Science Center where kids were able to visit campus pre-COVID to be taught by a neuroscientist—and she also leads tours, bringing people into the Nash Building where there is an exhibit “dedicated to the Manhattanville area.” She hopes to show community members that they can enter buildings to study with free WiFi, eat at the local businesses, or even just to escape the elements, 12 hours a day, seven days a week, no ID required.

When Manhattanville was being built, however, residents worried about being forced out. Though University President Lee Bollinger said he would not use eminent domain, there were two buildings in the way of the planned construction. These buildings housed 27 families in total, all of whom were in the Tenant Interim Lease program, meaning that they were on their way to owning their homes. To circumnavigate the issue, Columbia built a new building and moved the families as opposed to using eminent domain, where they became owners immediately instead of some years down the line.

“‘That’s a form of reparations,’” Lilly recalled Mann saying when she went on Lilly’s tour. “All this time I’ve been doing my tour, I never thought of it that way, so it was really eye-opening when she said that, that it could be considered a form of reparations, because you’ve made it right.”

That is what AARN, ultimately, is working toward—making it right. As Shaw said, reparations do still have somewhat of a reputation among certain groups of people, who see the practice as handing out free money “on a racial basis.” However, the use of the human rights framework expands what reparations are and can achieve.

Shaw asked, philosophically and rhetorically, “What do we hope we can all accomplish from this?”

To answer his own question, Shaw paused and thought for a moment before remarking thoughtfully: “It’s in pursuit of the more perfect union. We recognize that there are these historical injustices, and very methodically, student researchers, descendant communities, professionals in fields, we come together, we collaborate, and we try to find ways to move past these things, provide equity, equality, and repair.”

A previous version of this article incorrectly implied Columbia used eminent domain to displace persons for the Manhattanville campus. Spectator regrets the error.

Features Editor Lilienne Shore Kilgore-Brown can be contacted at Article from The Eye.


Descendant: An Africatown Documentary

In 1In 1860, two white men sailed to Africa with the intention of kidnapping Africans and bringing them back to Mobile, Alabama without anyone finding out. Margaret Brown’s new film “Descendant” tells the story of these men, their “success,” and more importantly, the 100 enslaved peoples that were brought to America on the Clotilda ship long after the Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves was signed. The film traces the ancestry of current residents of Africatown, Mobile, Alabama, and provides these descendants with the opportunity tell their stories and the stories of their family and community, since the time of the Clotilda. 

“Descendant” aired at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, and was recently purchased for distribution by Netflix and the Obama production company Higher Ground. The film promises to address Black erasure, both in its content and in its mere existence. This movie is a breakthrough in knowledge and education, and will hopefully pave the way for more research to be done on the lives of enslaved people and their descendants.

Local officials have failed to publicize the film, vastly ignoring the mass praise the film has received–despite Brown, “Descendant” creator, being a resident of Mobile, Alabama herself. In order for this film to truly succeed in counteracting centuries Black erasure, it is necessary for local leaders to embrace present efforts to recognize the horrors of the past.  

The movie focuses on one central question: how can we best remember our past? AARN is currently working with Africatown to establish a walking tour of the cemetery, another means by which to tell the stories of those who were brought to Mobile against their will. For more information, visit our page on technical assistance.


Highlighted local Redress: Prince Edward County, VA

Courtesy of The Washington Star

Rita Moseley, a Prince Edward County Student denied an education, spoke to her experience. “Equal justice under the law is a right guaranteed under the constitution. Any injustice done to African American matters because of the adverse impact it has on our lives. It’s important to treat everyone the same no matter whom they are. So justice, no matter, how long it takes, matters.

Being a recipient of the Brown Scholarship was an act of justice for those wronged by the school closing. It gave me the opportunity to continue my education, obtain a Bachelor’s Degree and subsequently my Master’s Degree. This had an enormous impact on my life but it did not or could not give me back what I had lost. My education, the opportunities that I missed out on as a youth can never be replaced at the age of a senior citizen. It healed me to a point; I was able to fulfill my mother’s dream of getting an education and earn two degrees. That to me is meaningful.”

  • 1951: walk-out led by a 16 year old girl, Barbara Johns, protesting the inadequacy of separate but equal, wanted to equalize facilities 

    • 1955: One of the five counties who were original plaintiffs in Brown v Board of Education 
    • 1955/56: Harry Bird: James J Killpatrick, massive resistance, nullification, trying to make it so the state didn’t have to abide by federal rules
    • Approximately 2300 students denied an education [1]
    • Reconciliation, coming from the lens of South Africa
    • 1998: It took almost eight years of community advocacy starting with the purchase of the Black-only school, R.R. Moton, by the African American community in 1998, to the successful passage of reparations, the Brown v. Board of Education Scholarship Program and Fund (the Fund)
    • Prior to the passage of the Fund, the state/local governments expressed profound regret for this wrongdoing
  • The quest for justice continues

Rita is the author of three books. See the press release on her newest bookSilence Broken After 50 Years, or visit her amazon page.

[1]House Joint Resolution, no. 613 (2003). Department of Education, Virginia. Retrieved from:

A conversation: Speak to your experiences of historical injustices?

Melisandre Short Colomb (M.S.C.) My first personal experience with historical injustice had to be at birth, I was born in the very segregated, deeply racially compromised New Orleans, Louisiana in 1954. At the time of my birth, the only hospital in New Orleans open to Black women in the city was Flint-Goodridge Hospital. White women did not give birth at this hospital, Black medical professionals were not allowed by law to treat White people.  So that would be my “first” although the segregation of my family and community for the first dozen years of my life was the safest and strongest place to be.

Darold Cuba (D.C). Where do I begin? Well, from the beginning, I guess. I was born to parents and into a family racialized as “Black” and “not-White” on the traditional lands of the Powhatan, Pamunkey and Mattaponi in what the settler colonial systems of institutionalized governments now call Portsmouth, Virginia – at the Portsmouth Naval Hospital at that. My parents were military officers recently stationed at Ft. Eustis, near Williamsburg, Yorktown and Newport News – in the Tidewater area after having been in Panama.

James “Darrell” Broach (D.B): My memory takes me back to the time my grand dad was killed. I was working as a newspaper boy for a Birmingham Newspaper. Once a week the newspaper truck would come, and both Black and White newspaper boys would get their papers from this truck.  Every week, the White carriers would sit and wait for the Black carriers to unload all the papers. I became less and less tolerant of this difference in treatment between the White carriers and the Black carriers. We complained to the manager. To show his displeasure toward our attitude, he began to hold us at the branch office a little longer each Saturday. One Saturday, he held us up for a meeting. After the meeting, he held our papers for over an hour and a half. After consulting with each other we walked off the job. We then proceeded to our customers, told them we had quit and why, and returned their money. 

Students at Prince Edward County’s shabby all-black Moton High School in 1951, when the desegregation suit that became part of Brown v. Board of Education was filed. Courtesy of Photograph from National Archives

How did you find yourself in a position of activism and what do you hope to achieve?

M.S.C: Three years ago, I was included in a large group of descendants of enslaved families sold by the Society of Jesus in 1838.   Having access to direct transactional economic records of this sale opened my consciousness and focused my attention.  The University made an offer to applying descendants of legacy status admission.  As a fully actualized adult, I decided to make the application. The University accepted me as a student in August 2017, and this is my rising third year there. 

My hope is to be a participant in the circle of healing we create as institutional/descendant/student activist to participate fulling and divesting totally from the ravages of racially based social and economic inequity in this country, these things that were birthed in enslavement and nursed by violent social and economic White supremacists’ laws and policies. 

D.C.My very existence is activism. The descendant of people racialized as “not-White” “Black” and “native” – and who thus were enslaved as a consequence of those structural realities – my ancestors walked off of plantations to create “freedom colonies/Black towns,” “century old family reunions, schools and colleges and other communal foundations, and I owe my very existence to them. If my ancestors endured the hundred years of indigenous genocides, racialized Atlantic Slave Trade enslavement, Black codes, Jim Crow, etc., etc. to get me here., it is my duty to “activate” with all cylinders firing towards equity and parity (not “progress,” “diversity,” “inclusion,” “tolerance.”)

D.B.: My grandfather’s death gave me the courage to stand up for myself and others and move on the path of activism.

Looking Ahead: Our Next region to explore: East and West South Central

Historical trauma and legacy. Elaine Arkansas. My brother is a descendant of 1919 feeling like a knee is on his neck.  Sent to prison by a judge who didn’t even give a reprimand to the White men with the same charge.  Sent to a prison in which 76 percent of those incarcerated have or had Covid-19 while his compassionate release is denied although it is a nonviolent charge to my nonviolent brother.  We need the nation’s eyes on the Delta where White power is still able to lynch and put knees on necks by different names, Lenora Marshall, Elaine Legacy Center.

As Covid-19 and the will to end racism are energizing our nation, we remember with tears that no White person was charged with even one murder when probably at least a thousand were killed in the Elaine Massacre of 1919.  No one was charged with a hate crime 100 years later when the Memorial Tree was maliciously chopped down.  At the Elaine Legacy Center we are creating The Elaine Museum and Civil Right Center and descendants are adding family stories to substantiate Land Theft of African American property by white empire builders as the cause of the racial terror at Elaine and other massacres across the country. People are speaking out.  As we work with national leaders toward ending racism, we are determined to build a new future right at home out of the pain of the past and present, Mary Olsen, Elaine Legacy Center.