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Blacks Press the Case for Reparations for Slavery

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 Facing the truth: The Case for Reparations

Bill speaks with Ta-Nehisi Coates, a senior editor for The Atlantic, about his cover story on why America needs to reconcile with its racist past.

I’ve been traveling around the country for the past few years studying America’s divides — urban/rural, red/blue, rich/poor. There’s been a haunting sensation the whole time that is hard to define. It is that the racial divide doesn’t feel like the other divides. There is a dimension of depth to it that the other divides don’t have. It is more central to the American experience.

One way to capture it is to say that the other divides are born out of separation and inequality, but the racial divide is born out of sin. We don’t talk about sin much in the public square any more. But I don’t think one can grasp the full amplitude of racial injustice without invoking the darkest impulses of human nature.

So let’s look at a sentence that was uttered at a time when the concept of sin was more prominent in the culture. The sentence is from Abraham Lincoln’s second Inaugural Address. Lincoln had just declared that slavery was the cause of the Civil War. He was fondly hoping and fervently praying that the scourge of war would pass away. But then he added this thought:

“Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s 250 years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said 3,000 years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’” To read more go to the link below:

A detail from a display at the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala.CreditCreditAndrea Morales for The New York Times

Blacks Press the Case for Reparations for Slavery by Lena Williams

This is a digitized version of an article from The Times’s print archive, before the start of online publication in 1996. To preserve these articles as they originally appeared, The Times does not alter, edit or update them.

723762_360WJuly 21, 1994, Page 00010 The New York Times Archives

The phrase “40 acres and a mule,” recalling a post-Civil War proposal to compensate former slaves for their servitude, has become the rallying cry among a small but outspoken group of African-Americans.

Some invoke the phrase as they seek financial redress from the Government on behalf of their ancestors. Others, who admit that seeking payment is impractical and the chances of receiving anything improbable, still maintain that gaining attention for the plight of their forebears is well worth their energies.

Beginning tomorrow, about 1,000 people who favor reparations are expected to attend the fifth annual Conference on Reparations at Cobo Hall in Detroit. The three-day conference is part of a grass-roots movement that includes petition drives and support from some prominent black politicians, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson and Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan. Framing the Debate

For years, blacks have joked bitterly about exacting reparations. “This is my 40 acres,” some looters were heard to say during the urban riots of the 1960’s. “I’ll be back for the mule.” But until recently, any organized movement had been largely ignored or dismissed by most blacks as a foolhardy and unwinnable effort by people whose time could be better spent addressing issues like crime, unemployment and teen-age pregnancy.

Robert Woodson, the president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise in Washington, disagrees with the idea of seeking reparations, saying that blacks’ efforts should be directed toward dealing with the problems of the present. “The issue isn’t whether reparations are justified,” Mr. Woodson said. “The question is, Is this an effective way to address problems facing black Americans?”

Occasionally the digitization process introduces transcription errors or other problems. Please send reports of such problems to archive_feedback@nytimes.com. To read more go to the link below:

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