Community Reparations

AARN provides advocacy tools, research, and capacity building to descendant communities in their efforts to secure racial justice and reparation initiatives. Highlighted below are several of the communities we collaborate with. If you would like to work with AARN, join the Redress Network and contact us for more information.

States shown in blue are those where AARN has directly collaborated on reparation efforts.

map of the USA and its colonies, with several states highlighted in a blue color

Featured Communities

History:

Research in the Clerk’s office found multiple instances of racial discrimination perpetrated by the City of Evanston.

Harms:

  • Relocation of Black homes: In the 1920s, Aldermen began approving permit applications to move homes to the 5th ward, most of these homes were owned by Black families.
  • Red-lining and segregation-driven housing policies: In the 1930s, the federal government convened the Home Owners’Loan Corporation (HOLC), which brought together mortgage lenders, developers, and real estate professionals across the country to design color-coded maps designating the credit-worthiness of certain neighborhoods. Red-lined communities were labeled as ‘hazardous” and subsequently denied FHA mortgages. These homes were located in the 5th ward. By 1940, 84% of African American households in Evanston were located within the 5th ward. Today, the 5th ward remains racially segregated.

icon of a hand holding a wrench, indicating ‘repairs’

Reparation:

In March 2021, AARN pledged legal support to the reparation efforts in Evanston, Illinois. Evanston City Council was preparing to vote on the Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program. The Evanston’s City Council voted 8-1 on Monday, March 22, 2021 to approve the reparations program. Qualifying households will be awarded up to $25,000 for down payments or home repairs. Despite the approval by the City Council, the reparations ordinance is being threatened with legal challenges.

In Summer 2021, Evanston requested that AARN develop an impact study to prepare for future legal challenges. The study demonstrated a causal relationship between historically discriminatory zoning policies and the current racial economic and housing disparities in Evanston and supported the provision of a reparations program in Evanston. AARN additionally developed an economic calculus to demonstrate the wealth impact of the Housing reparations in 20 years time.

See AARN’s impact study on Evanston here.

History:

The enslaved peoples arrived in the U.S. on board the Clotilda. The Clotilda was the last ship to make the transatlantic trip with enslaved Africans on board. This occurred long after the importation of enslaved peoples from Africa was banned. To hide the evidence, the ship was burned and sunk in the Mobile River. 

Harms:

  • Environmental harms
  • land theft
  • destruction of historical sites
  • economic and vocational disparities, education, health

icon of a hand holding a wrench, indicating ‘repairs’

Reparation:

Africatown C.H.E.S.S. exists to ensure that the Africatown community, in Mobile, Alabama is Clean, Healthy, Educated, Safe, & Sustainable. Our aim is to re-establish the unity in a neighborhood that once thrived as the example of the most loving and family-oriented atmosphere in the Deep South. Through projects geared towards beautifying our streets and homes, producing quality products and living standards, preserving the first public school for African-Americans in the state of Alabama, creating a community of watchmen, and retaining the culture and heritage of a nearly forgotten people – Africatown. C.H.E.S.S. will be the leading example of difference-makers in the historic Africatown area.

AARN’s role: Using archival and genealogical research we are identifying and tracing the descendants of the enslaved peoples that arrived at Africatown in 1860 and are buried in the historic Plateau Cemetery. Alongside C.H.E.S.S. members, and the International Center of Transitional Justice, we are working to create a historic walking tour for the Africatown community. The inaugural lantern walk will take place in June in time for the 2022 High School graduation ceremonies.

History:

The school is a critical reminder of Chelsea, NY’s segregationist education policy and history, which is not yet widely discussed or well-understood.

By the late 1870s, a movement to disestablish colored schools prompted demonstrative public appeals from black citizens—including Frederick Douglass—which influenced then New York State Governor Grover Cleveland to sign a Legislative act on May 5, 1884, that spared two separate race-based schools from closure: of those two, Colored School No. 4 was thereafter designated as Grammar Schools No. 81. Despite the new name, it remained a “colored” school into the 1890s until it’s disuse. The Board of Education gave up the building circa 1894.

“Colored” schools were the cultural centers of New York’s African American communities in those times. There was a concentration of working-class African American families in Chelsea during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era. 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.

icon of a hand holding a wrench, indicating ‘repairs’

Reparation:

AARN is working to designate Colored School No. 4 as an Individual Landmark. It is vital to preserve this last remaining “colored” school in Manhattan to commemorate African Americans’ heritage in the City.

View some notable residents and affiliations of School No. 4.

History:

Brown Grove Community is a predominately Black community that was settled by freed slaves.

Harms:

Currently, the preservation of this land is being threatened by private development. The community has been inundated with industry for years. Examples include unattended businesses, displacement of homes and land, divide of the community by interstate 95; displaced families due to airport expansion. Wegman’s is now encroaching Brown Grove Community’s historic areas, which include seven African American cemeteries, a Black-only School archaeological site, and a historic, Black-only church.

icon of a hand holding a wrench, indicating ‘repairs’

Reparation:

AARN has worked alongside the Brown Grove Preservation Group (BGPG) since spring 2021. Brown Grove is one of only two VA historic districts developed by Free Blacks. The descendant community land has been the recipient of significant environmental injustice since the turn of the 20th century with the development of interstate I-95, an airport, landfill, concrete plant, industrial park and more. Brown Grove and is currently facing erasure with the development of a 1.7 million-square-foot Wegman’s distribution center. AARN successfully secured a visit with the Environmental Protection Agency to explore ways to protect Brown Grove from further adverse effects. Additionally, the Supreme Court of Virginia has agreed to hear an appeal of two lower court rulings that determined that residents living as close as 1,200 feet or across the street from the Wegmans did not have the right to challenge the approval of the project by local officials. A date for the hearing is forth coming. 

AARN and the International Center of Transitional Justice sponsored The Brown Grove Empowerment and Strategic Planning Retreat. Read more at Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights website.

AARN is working with Harris Neck Community for Justice and Preservation to preserve the unique Harris Neck culture, re-create a green community, and protect our natural and cultural resources. This work aims to represent all the surviving families that lived on Harris Neck from 1865-1942 or owned property as of 1942. It is created by and comprised of former Harris Neck community members, property owners, and their descendants.

The specific goals of the project are to: a) reclaim the 2,687 acres of Harris Neck, b) create a new community, c) preserve the Gullah-Geechee culture, d) protect and preserve land, water, and wildlife, and e) educate the public about Harris Neck history, various cultures, and ethics of land stewardship and racial diversity and harmony.

icon of a hand holding a wrench, indicating ‘repairs’

Reparation:

The new Harris Neck community would be like the original one recreated through modern technology to become the home of the rightful owners. There is a priority on a model of sustainable and culturally-harmonious living for rural areas. Plans are based off the ethics and values of living Harris Neck elders which include self-reliance, living sustainably and in harmony with nature, preserving the culture and land, communal responsibility, education, entrepreneurship, meaningful work and living-wage jobs, and offering quality goods and services.

Descendants of the St. Louis University Enslaved (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.

icon of a hand holding a wrench, indicating ‘repairs’

Reparation:

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!

Other Projects

TAP

The Amendment Project aims to mobilize college-age students to lobby city councils for reparations resolutions as well as bring reparations further into our political discourse. AARN and TAP worked together to create a public campaign in support of reparations in Tulsa, OK. AARN and TAP also collaborated with local organizations in Boston, Massachusetts to forward a state-wide reparations campaign.

HR40

AARN provided research to Congressperson Sheila Jackson Lee to support HR40. Utilizing AARN’s mapping data, a list of 165 municipal and state sponsored reparation efforts were provided to Congressperson Jackson Lee demonstrating the significant call and need for US racial reparations.

Reparationist Stories

The AARN is collecting oral histories from those who have worked on U.S. Reparation efforts. We are currently collaborating with Reparations4slavery to use excerpts from these interviews for training modules on historic harms. Reparations4slavery will use these as part of their curriculum to help white individuals make reparations to Black Americans. Our first interview featured advocates Waymon Hinson and Shoun Hill from the Black Farmers’ Reparation movement, who produced a documentary on their work “I’m Just a Layman in Pursuit of Justice.” Recently, we interviewed Ald. Simmons on her historic work in Evanston, IL.  Ald. Simmons is now Founder and Director of First Repair, an organization committed to assisting other municipalities with their reparation efforts. 

The Fund for Reparations Now

Who we are: The Fund for Reparations Now launched their Red Summer 1919-2021 Digital Memorial. This was a collaborative project between the National African American Reparations Commission and The Fund for Reparations Now. The goal was to share the stories of the Red Summer 1919 in real time over the course of 2021 that no American should enter 2022 ignorant of this historical period.

Historical context: The Red Summer took place over an eight month period in which anti-Black riots and lynchings occurred across the South into the North and the Midwest. 

What we do: Approximately 80 posts began April 13th and extended through the month of November 2021 to acknowledge and educate about the occurrences that comprised the Red Summer. Each post provided a date, a geographical location, and in some cases, individual victims to memorialize. Funds raised through this campaign supported efforts in Elaine, AK.