Descendants of Slaves Demand $74 Billion in Reparations

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AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

Were your ancestors abused by a racist, oppressive system? If so, you may have rightful dibs on three-quarters of a hundred billion dollars. At least, that’s true of “you” in the group sense — such is the stance of an alliance in Missouri.

For those unfamiliar with Saint Louis University (SLU), the Roman Catholic research institution was founded in 1818 and is the country’s second-oldest Jesuit school. Here’s more, from the official “About” page:

Rated among the nation’s top research universities, SLU boasts 15 graduate and undergraduate programs ranked among the top 50 in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Academically, ethics, spirituality and compassion take center stage, while outside the classroom, members of the SLU community provide more than 1.6 million service hours each year — just one reason we’re among the nation’s top colleges for making an impact. In fact, more than 150 of SLU’s courses integrate community engagement into academics.

Speaking of service, the school once served up enslavement. Courtesy of student paper The University News:

The Society of Jesus, whose involvement in…slavery can be traced back to the colonial era, expanded into Missouri in 1823 and brought with them six enslaved men and women: Thomas and Mary Brown, Moses and Nancy Queen, and Isaac and Susan Queen-Hawkins.
From there, the number of slaves rose as new slaves were born and others were purchased. … [B]y 1831, there were at least 26 individuals held in bondage by the Jesuits. 
In 1829, the Jesuits began operating Saint Louis University. They transferred several enslaved people from the St. Stanislaus Novitiate in Florissant, where the majority were forced to work, to St. Louis…

Fast-forward to the formation of Descendants of St. Louis University Enslaved (DSLUE). On February 8th, organization President Robin Proudie — flanked by civil rights attorney Areva Martin, economist Julianne Malveaux and Democratic State Sen. Karla May — held a press conference during which a demand for back pay was made. 

Areva represents around 200 descendants of Henrietta Mills and Charles Chauvin, who were among those — per Spectrum News — “forced to work at the first Jesuit mission in Missouri, St. Stanislaus, SLU, St. Francis Xavier College Church and other local churches, farms and schools between 1823 and 1865.”

Though the roughly 70 slaves purportedly did laundry, farmed, cleaned, and drove wagons, theirs were no minimum-wage-quality efforts. Economist Julianne has declared an owed amount of $365 million. 

On top of that, she’s added interest. The final tab: $74 billion.

Might the school have a spare $100 billion in a catch-it-all drawer or a Dave Ramsey-style emergency fund in an envelope sitting beneath some socks? If not, restitution may prove rough; SLU’s stated endowment is only $1.4 billion. Nonetheless, as you’ve likely observed, race-related reparation is a very real proposition in modern America:

At Protestors’ Insistence, College Sets Up ‘Reparations Fund’ to Pay for Black Students’ Books and Therapy

Southern City Council Votes to Award Black Residents ‘Community Reparations’

Rhode Island City Enters Phase 2 of ‘Black and Indigenous’ Reparations

Seminary Scrubs Founders’ Names, Will Pay a Million-Plus in Reparations to Descendants of Dishwashers

Reparations Activist Demands $350,000 for Every Black Californian

City Council Member Urges That White Business Owners Be Forced to Pay ‘Black- and Brown-Owned’ Businesses

As for Saint Louis University’s situation, it was self-created in more ways than one. Five years ago, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) notified the descendants that their forebears had been slaves. A committee was then formed to work with relatives on a justice-snaring deal. Also resultant was the launch of DSLUE.

On to February 8th: In response to the dozens-of-billions demand, a school statement was issued sans giant cardboard check…

SLU’s participation in the institution of slavery was a grave sin. … As we move forward, we hope to re-establish and build deeper relationships with all descendant families, to explore together how best to honor the memory of those who were enslaved by the Jesuits.

Mum seems the word on the money; but so you know, no one’s asking for gratuitous green. At the news conference, DSLUE President Robin made that clear:

“We’re not asking for a handout. We’re asking for their debt to be paid. … We decided as a family that we would stand up not only for us, but for all of the enslaved descendants of those who built this country.”

Economist Julianne stands by her math:

“The calculations that we came up with and the method that we used are time-honored methods.”

Those methods involved consideration of quite the work week. Back to Spectrum News:

The number was based on labor done 24 hours per day, 365 days per year for 70 enslaved people from 1823-1865, [Julianne] said.

That’s a lot of overtime; perhaps it explains the colossal amount of cash. Then again, if there was no sleep for 32 years, it’s doubtful that the laundry got all that clean. Regardless, the nation — according to a growing group — is in a similar boat as the erstwhile-enslaving SLU: Its dirty laundry must be spotlessly renewed. The past is filthy; only a reparations reckoning will wash it. In St. Louis, the detergent is Christian repentance; and the dryer sheet is a hundred-billion-dollar bill.

-ALEX

1 COMMENT

  1. The newly freed slaves were given reparations with land and a mule, so they were able to be given liberty for a new life and build their own churches. They were finally free, except those who chose to stay on the ‘plantation’. It seems like the descendants of free men and women want to stay on the ‘plantation’. It’s sad to see, after the hard-fought freedom, their decendents still aren’t happy and refuse to enjoy the liberty and prosperity their ancestors worked so hard for.

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