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Are Descendants of Enslaved Africans Owed Any Compensation?

Let’s examine possible reasons:


  • America’s original sin

  • Chattel slavery in the U.S. has been deemed one of the most brutal forms of slavery in world history.

  • The horrors included massive killings, public hangings, brutal beatings, rape, selling parents away from families, children away from parents and the list goes on.

  • Slavery established the economic foundation for U.S. core source of original wealth. The cotton industry ushered in the Industrial Revolution.

  • In fact, the nation’s wealth was built on slavery.

Emancipation with no Compensation

  • Emancipation after 246 years of enslavement.

  • In 1865 President Lincoln allocated 400,000 acres along the coast of SC, GA, FL to recently freed persons.

  • Each freed person was assigned 40 acres.

  • Derivation of “40 acres and a mule.”

  • After President Lincoln’s death in April of 1865, the new president, Andrew Johnson overturned the order and removed newly freed citizens from the land in the fall of 1865.

Homestead Acts

The Homestead Acts provided U.S. citizens with 160 acres of government land provided they filed an application, improved the land for five years, and filed for the deed of ownership at the end of the period. The first Homestead Act was passed in 1862 before the end of the Civil War. A second Southern Homestead Act was passed in 1866, this was one in which Black people could participate.

  • 246 million acres of western land were allocated.

  • 1.6 million white families – both native-born and immigrant became landowners.

  •  Only 4,000 to 5,500 African Americans received final land patents from the Southern Homestead Act.


  • After reconstruction, the unfair system of land owners “sharing” land with African Americans who had no land.

  • Ideally the sharing would be 60:40.

  • The net effect of this arrangement was that the African American sharecropper never gained any proceeds from the land owner essentially plunging them further into poverty.

Jim Crow Laws

  • System of laws and executive orders that legalized segregation and discrimination in the U.S. mostly in the south.

  • Another brutal system that kept up the tradition of slavery and made wealth for white people and poverty for African Americans.

G. I. Bill 1944

  • Discrimination was allowed by the Federal Government in home mortgage loans.

  • States were allowed to dispense loans at their discretion to veterans of WWII.

  • 1947 only 2 of 3,200 VA loans in 13 Mississippi cities went to Black borrowers.

  • In NY and NJ suburbs, fewer than 100 of the 67,000 mortgages were awarded to People of Color.

  • William Levitt ushered in suburban housing developments when he constructed affordable upscale housing in Levittown - Long Island, NY and other locations around the country during 1947-1951.

  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) only granted William Levitt permission to build the homes on the explicit condition that they would not be sold, resold, or rented to African-Americans.

  • They sold when they were built for about $8,000 - $9,000

  • That’s roughly $100,000 in today’s money.

  • Now sell for $300-$500,000 and more

  • White families gained ancestral wealth

  • Black families were kept out of that advantage

  • East Lansing is another example. African Americans were not allowed to build or own housing in East Lansing until the 1968 Housing Act was passed.

  • The Fair Housing Act of 1968 prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin or sex. Intended as a follow-up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the bill was passed by the House of Representatives in the days after the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr.


The discriminatory system used by banks and real estate agents to deny housing loans to People of Color in the U.S. in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s. The “redlined” areas on housing maps were the only areas that property owners and realtors would sell to People of Color. They would be denied loans for other areas. The “code” looked like this. Green for the “Best,” Blue for “Still Desirable,” Yellow for “Definitely Declining,” and Red for “Hazardous.”

Racial Wealth Divide

All of the reasons listed prior were determinates in developing what is known as the Racial Wealth Divide. All of these historical events were impediments to African Americans gaining wealth. African Americans are the only ethnic group who started life in the U.S. with zero wealth. The Racial Wealth Divide is a structural problem that requires structural solutions. Wealth can be simply understood as the sum total of what a family owns minus what they owe. A family’s wealth accumulation is the amount of wealth they inherit from their family. All of these factors together with systemic and structural racism are reasons why African Americans do not have wealth today. So this brings us to what is the result of 400 years of white industrial domination resulting in systemic racism that has denied the equal accumulation of wealth to people who shared overwhelmingly in the building and economic development of this country.

The Institute for Policy Studies

The Institute for Policy Studies

How Can We Repair the Breach?


The supporting narrative in this plan clearly shows the dire need of some form of compensation for African Americans in the U.S. for the enslavement of ancestors and the aftermath of systemic and structural racism. After having met with church pastors and congregations who are acknowledging the undoubtable harm and damage that has been and continues to be done to People of Color a clear vision stands out as a solution. Attending First Presbyterian Church of Lansing, Michigan has allowed some great opportunities on the road to racial justice and reconciliation and healing for the congregation. We have engaged in and forged a sustained path toward racial justice and developing a Beloved Community in our part of the world. Our governing Presbytery has established a doctrine for the General Assembly titled the Sin of Racism. This is a statement that addresses how to achieve redemption and repentance to be able to triumph over the sin of racism. In that vein I believe that to really move to the next step we must seriously give some oxygen to repairing the breach. We envision this plan as a means to address racial injustices and inequities in the Greater Lansing Area.

The group had taken the name Justice League of Greater Lansing Michigan (JLGLM). We have started meeting with a group of white churches in the Greater Lansing Area who have expressed an interest in impacting wrongs perpetrated on African Americans in the U.S. Many of these churches, of course starting with slavery, have healthy endowments that can address these problems. Endowments that can contribute to a central fund that becomes a Reparations Endowment in its own right.

Reparations Endowment Plan:

  • Secure Funds

    • Church Endowments

    • Could use 10% from Capital Campaigns

    • Collaboration with Other Local Churches


  • Collaboration with Other Presbyterian Churches


  • Collaboration with Other Churches/Faith Groups in the Greater Lansing Area


  • Have African American Churches and Pastors and Representatives from prominent sectors of the African American Community serve on an Advisory Board


  • Speak with a Financial Company/Financial Advisor About How to Set Up An Endowment for Receipt of Funds


  • Suggested Use of Funds for African Americans in Greater Lansing Area

    • Scholarships for College Bound Individuals

    • Housing Loans/Grants for First Time Home Buyers

    • Start-Up Business Grants


  • The Goal of the JLGLM is to Have $1 Million by the End of 2023.

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