Centuries of Theft Infographic: Here are the numbers to answer the question “Why Reparations?”Down arrow

Photo from Library of Congress

Just the Facts

A Nation Built on the Back of Slavery and Racism

Why Reparations?

It began with 246 years of legal slavery in which we extracted wealth from the lives of African Americans. At the time of the Civil War, close to 4 million African Americans were enslaved, 13 percent of America’s total population. After the war, institutional injustices focused on stealing their land and jobs and ensuring that African Americans did not build wealth as fast as the rest of Americans. The economy we have today was built on this.

Slavery launched modern capitalism and turned the U.S. into the wealthiest country in the world.

In the cotton field

In the cotton field A card from the series “The slave in 1863.” Library of Congress

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Sources & Further Reading

Introduction:  +  The Conversation: Slavery in America  +  The Civil War Home Page  +  1.5 million pounds in 1790 and 2.25 billion pounds in 1859, based on “Empire of Cotton,” by Sven Beckert (2014) pgs. 104, 106  +  77% based on: “Cotton and Race in the Making of America: The Human Costs of Economic Power,” by Gene Dattel (2009)  +  Mississippi History Now  +  Joshua Rothman, email correspondence, 2015  +  Economic History Association  +  Abraham Lincoln’s Classroom  +  48.3% in 1860 according to Gavin Wright, Slavery and American Economic Development (LSU Press, 2006, paperback 2013) [personal communication]

Emancipation did not bring economic freedom to former slaves.

A Southern chain gang circa 1903.

Convict Labor A southern chain gang circa 1903. Library of Congress

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Sources & Further Reading

+   “The Shadow of Credit,” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change  +  National Archives & Records Administration  +  “From the Prison of Slavery to the Slavery of Prison”  +  Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice   +  The Economist: Race relations in America  +  “The Politics of Despair: Power and Resistance in the Tobacco Wars.“ Tracy Campbell, 2015  +  7% based on: “Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Vol. 4.” 1979.

Discriminatory policies then kept African Americans from receiving help other citizens received.

We can’t pay rent

Left Behind African American woman standing on a street in the 1930s holding a sign reading “Our boss owns 77 houses, we can’t pay rent.“ Library of Congress

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Sources & Further Reading

+  Office of Retirement and Disabilty Policy  +  70-80%, according to: The Atlantic  +  The Congressional Record  +  Farm Aid  +  “Doubly Divided: The Racial Wealth Gap”

The result: African Americans have not been able to get a foothold in the economy.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Owed Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. estimated 40 acres and a mule to freed slaves would be worth $800 billion. Library of Congress

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Sources & Further Reading

+  “Income and Poverty in the United States: 2013”  +  Dime based on: “Laying the Foundation for National Prosperity”  +  California Newsreel  +  $59 trillion: Activist Teacher  +  $15 trillion: National Legal and Policy Center  +  $25 trillion: The Washington Post  +  Martin Luther King: The Root

Centuries of Theft

An abolitionist print possibly engraved in 1830.

An abolitionist print possibly engraved in 1830. Library of Congress

Advertising for purchase of slaves by Thomas Griggs, Charlestown, 7 May 1835.

Advertising for purchase of slaves by Thomas Griggs, Charlestown, 7 May 1835. Library of Congress

Slaves wearing handcuffs and shackles passing the United States Capitol, around 1815.

Slaves wearing handcuffs and shackles passing the United States Capitol, around 1815. Library of Congress

Card showing African American slave being separated from wife and child.

Card showing African American slave being separated from wife and child, around 1863. Library of Congress

African American woman holding a white child.

African American woman holding a white child, around 1855. Library of Congress

The cotton planter and his pickers.

Postcard showing white man holding shotgun and dog, with African American men, women, and children, in cotton field, around 1908. Library of Congress

The bell rack.

The bell rack, a contraption used by an Alabama slave owner to guard a runaway slave, was originally topped by a bell which rang when the runaway attempted to leave the road and go through foliage or trees. Shutterstock

Wilson Chinn, a branded slave from Louisiana.

Wilson Chinn, a branded slave from Louisiana exhibits a device used to punish slaves, around 1863. Library of Congress

Willis Winn with horn with which slaves were called. Near Marshall, Texas.

Willis Winn (former slave) with horn with which slaves were called. Near Marshall, Texas, April, 1939. Library of Congress

Chain gang street sweepers, Washington, D. C., 1909.

Chain gang street sweepers, Washington, D. C., 1909. Library of Congress

Group of Florida migrants on their way to Cranberry, New Jersey.

Group of Florida migrants on their way to Cranberry, New Jersey, to pick potatoes. Near Shawboro, North Carolina, July, 1940. Shutterstock

Shacks of African American migratory workers, Belle Glade, Fla., Februray, 1941.

Shacks of African American migratory workers, Belle Glade, Fla., Februray, 1941. Library of Congress

Young African Americans working in Cape May Glass Co., N.J., November, 1909.

Young African Americans working in Cape May Glass Co., N.J., November, 1909. Library of Congress