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Law Suit In Us-corporations Linked To Slave Trade-reparations


Well-Known TRIBEr
Just thought that this would provoke some interesting debate?

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Attorneys for a former law student, who discovered evidence linking U.S. corporations to the slave trade, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday that could seek billions of dollars in reparations for the descendants of slaves in America.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn names FleetBoston Financial, the railroad firm CSX and the Aetna insurance company, and promises to name up to 100 additional corporations at a later date.

It accuses the companies of conspiracy, human rights violations, unjust enrichment from their corporate predecessors' roles in the slave trade and conversion of the value of the slaves' labor into their profits.

Complaint: Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston Financial Corp., et al.


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"These are corporations that benefited from stealing people, from stealing labor, from forced breeding, from torture, from committing numerous horrendous acts, and there's no reason why they should be able to hold onto assets they acquired through such horrendous acts," said Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit.

Farmer-Paellmann said she learned of Aetna's role in insuring slaves in legal classes, and then asked Aetna for old policies documenting the practice, which Aetna provided to her.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 35 million African-Americans. It seeks financial payments for the value of "stolen" labor and unjust enrichment and calls for the companies to give up "illicit profits." The plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

The lawsuit does not seek a specific dollar amount, but estimates slaves performed as much as $40 million worth of unpaid labor between 1790 and 1860. The current value of that labor could be as high as $1.4 trillion

The lawsuit alleges that Aetna's corporate predecessor "insured human slave owners against the loss of their human chattel."

In response, Aetna released a statement saying, "We do not believe a court would permit a lawsuit over events which -- however regrettable -- occurred hundreds of years ago. These issues in no way reflect Aetna today."

The lawsuit notes that FleetBoston is a successor to Providence Bank, which it says was founded by Rhode Island slave trader John Brown. FleetBoston had no immediate comment on the suit.

The suit alleges that CSX, based in Richmond, Virginia, is a successor to numerous railroads that were built or run, at least in part, by slave labor.

In a statement, CSX said the suit is "wholly without merit and should be dismissed. The claimants named CSX because slave labor was used to construct portions of some U.S. rail lines under the political and legal system in place more than a century before CSX was formed in 1980."

Slave reparations have been a controversial issue. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted last month found a wide difference of opinion on the issue between black and white respondents.

Nine out of 10 white respondents said the government should not make cash payments to slave descendants while 6 percent said it should.

Among black respondents, 55 percent said the government should make cash payments and 37 percent said it should not.

The poll surveyed 1,001 adults -- 820 of them white and 146 black -- February 8-10. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 9 percentage points for black respondents and plus or minus 4 percent points for white respondents. The percentages differ because of the difference in the number of people surveyed.

The same people were asked if corporations that made profits from slavery should apologize to African-Americans. Among blacks, 68 percent said they should while 23 percent said they should not. Among whites, 32 percent said they should and 62 percent said they should not.

Three-fourths of black respondents said the companies should set up scholarship funds for descendants of slaves and 20 percent said they should not. Among white respondents, 35 percent of respondents said they favored the scholarship funds while 61 percent said they were opposed.


TRIBE Member
Hmmm ...

Just thought that this would provoke some interesting debate?
No responses so far?! I guess you should have mentioned Denzel Washington, and people would have been all over this thread. :)

Seriously though, regardless of whether or not the principle of reparations for slavery holds any water, this whole idea would most certainly pose a logistic and bureaucratic nightmare.

Subsonic Chronic

TRIBE Member
How can a company realistically pay individuals for harms caused hundreds of years ago that were legal at the time?

It's a tough call on reparations for slavery... I think that some reparations are in order, but not as cash handouts for descendants of victims. Scholarships and programs like that come across as the most sound idea because they're much easier to implement and benefit black society and culture as opposed to individuals. There would definitely be the logistics problems that Adrian mentionned if decendants of victims were applying for personal reparations. There's the issue of having to prove that they are the descendants of said slaves, and having to prove that they suffered as a result.

Of course, part of the problem with this case of reparations is the time that has gone by since the infractions.

An article from the Village Voice this week talks about how IBM made lots of money in Nazi Germany, setting up the technological infrastructure that allowed the Third Reich to perfom it's genocide so effectively. The article doesn't make any mention of reparations, but I would think that in this case an argument could definitely be made for it. It's too long to post, but definitely worth a read.




TRIBE Member
I think the statute of limitations has expired on this. But I do feel the US government should issue a formal apology for slavery and set up some sort of endowment fund. (which is ultimately the principal aim of the plaintiff in this case, as per an interview she gave yesterday)


TRIBE Member
Originally posted by Gizmo

I think the statute of limitations has expired on this

There's a statute of limitations on profiting from an act that wasn't a crime at the time? How does that work?

I think they should pay out. I think the United states government needs to get dinged for a good hunk of the bread too.

The Canadian Government popped out the cash the the Japanese who where interned. They popped out the bread for all those poor fuckers who got hepC from the Canadian red cross.

Why shouldn't businesses have to bust out the bread, when they have profited from something as nasty as slavery. Just cause it happened a long time ago doesn't mean shiat.

The fact that it's not all that practical also doesn't mean shit. Tuff luck.

I think that if your skin is black and you can somehow prove that some part of your family has been in the states since 1860ish, you should be elligible for a big wad of cash. No questions asked. You wanna spend it on college? Go ahead. You wanna spend it on hookers and coke? Go nuts. Nobody asked white slave owners what they where spending their money on.

Ya it would cipple the economy, but tuff. We're talking about people being treated like animals.... the children of the oppresed are still suffering and the children of the oppressor are still profiting.



I can't beleive those poll results either!
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TRIBE Member
this is a complicated issue

i agree with the above comment on the statute of limitations expiring, although in this particular case, as in many a trial at the international court in the Hague, i don't think that should come into play.
this issue, if it is to be resolved, would probably be better suited towards a presentation before the international court, as the slave trade did not only enrich american corporations, but many, many British and Dutch family's and businesses as well, not to mention the governments of Spain and Portugal as well as businesses and family's all throughout Central and South America. and what about the Churches role in all this? this is an entirley overly complex issue to solve, which is FAR beyond the scope of any state or federal court. i'm a firm believer that even the supreme court is not qualified to pass judgement on this issue.
the term "african american" is somewhat misused in this case, as technically the term defines all african's who were brought to the america's, whether they be in the USA or not.
if anyone is to be compensated for the misdeeds of the past, it should be the countries of western africa (burkina faso, mali, guinea, ivory coast) where most of the slaves were captured. the human cost to these countries, and their people's, can never be adequetly determined.
i find it selfish and arrogant that one american law student feels that he/she can represent the combined interests of all "african americans", foreign governments, etc etc. in the face of such a gargantuan atrocity as slavery which was committed by just about every "civilized" country in western europe and the america's.

my 2 cents




TRIBE Member

Ya it would cipple the economy, but tuff. We're talking about people being treated like animals
Did you ever stop and think that African Americans are part of this very economy? Judging by the poll results, 37% of African Americans realize that receiving a few hundred dollars is not worth destroying several successful companies who provide jobs to fellow black people. They also realize that imposing hundreds of billions of dollars in costs on the American government will eventually come out of their own pockets through higher taxes and reduced services.

It's not free money. African Americans are not a separate economy. They pay taxes and work for big corporation just like everyone else.