While reparations seem to have grabbed the attention of the media and politicians over the last couple of years, people have been fighting for reparations for Black Americans for decades. So as reparations go mainstream, one cannot forget those who helped start the fight, such as “Reparations Ray,” Queen Mother Moore, and Silis Muhammad.
One of the first to push for reparations on a very public level was a man known as Reparations Ray. Starting in the 1960s, Detroit activist Raymond Jenkins began to speak out for reparations for the descendants of enslaved people.
He has been hailed as a pioneer of the reparations movement.
Reparations Ray inspired Rep. John Conyers, Jr., a Democrat who served as a U.S. Representative for Michigan from 1965 to 2017, to introduce the HR 40 bill — legislation seeking to establish a commission to study and develop reparation proposals.
Reparations Ray argued that broken government promise of 40 acres and a mule made to freed slaves following the Civil War needed to be made good. He said the payment could be in several possible forms of compensation — from cash grants to free college education, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Queen Mother Moore
The late Audley “Queen Mother” Moore has been called the founder of the modern reparations movement. Audley Eloise Moore, who became known as Queen Mother Moore, picked up the reparations fight early on and organized people and groups to promote the idea of reparations.
In the 1950s, Moore founded or organized multiple grass-roots groups, including the National Emancipation Proclamation Centennial Observance Committee and Reparations Committee. As the leader of these groups, Moore did widespread organizing to collect signatures for a petition to compel the federal government to take up the issue of reparations and formulate a repayment plan, the Washington Post reported.
By 1963, she had collected enough signatures to take her petitions to the White House. She wanted to present the petitions to President John F. Kennedy, though this effort did not move forward.
In 1962, Moore saw the approaching 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863 as an occasion to discuss the legacies of slavery. She created the Reparations Committee for the Descendants of American Slaves (RCDAS) and filed a claim demanding reparations for slavery in a California court, History News Network reported. The suit was not successful.
In 1968, Moore joined the Republic of New Afrika and backed the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA).
Moore is credited with modernizing and popularizing the reparations movement. She fought for it until her death in 1997.
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Silis Muhammad, played a significant role in the Nation of Islam before founding the Lost-Found Nation of Islam and becoming the publisher of Muhammad Speaks. Among Muhammad’s continued efforts is the push for reparations for the descendants of the American slavery system.
“As CEO of the Lost-Found Nation of Islam and All for Reparations & Emancipation (AFRE), Muhammad works day and night to give Afrodescendants the knowledge and resources required to gain 100% freedom, justice, and equality, recognition, and restoration of their human rights…and to bring about self-determination,” Muhammed Speaks News reported. “Muhammad has spent more than 30+ years teaching Afrodescendants (so-called African-Americans) the basis of their problem, civil death, and its solution.”
One of the major discussions surrounding reparations is whether they should be in the form of money and, if so, how much.
Here is what Silis Muhammad wrote in Muhammad Speaks: “Let’s not be like Lebron James’ in leaving America’s legacy of slavery unchallenged and unchanged. Will the issue of reparations for Blacks be a topic of discussion in the 2016 elections? Ninety-eight percent of African Americans are descendants of slaves and have a stake in the issue. Blacks have been lacking in adjudicating debts the US owes descendants of slaves…The US likely owes descendants of slaves $14 trillion. Reparations payments could total one million dollars per family of four.”
Photo: Audley “Queen Mother” Moore, April 18, 1996, file photo in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)