Reparations? The Debt’s Been Paid Already!
Perhaps it’s time for a little history lesson for those who support the call for reparations to compensate black Americans for the sins of slavery. Aside from the fact that this current effort is nothing more than an election season attempt by Democrats to once again buy the votes of black Americans, reparations simply are not warranted because the debt’s been paid.
First of all, out of approximately ten million slaves who survived the terrible ordeal of the voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, roughly only three hundred eighty-eight thousand were transported directly to the United States, the rest went to Caribbean and south and Central American countries.
Certainly if only a single slave was imported into the United States that was one too many. No one is arguing that the slavery of any human being was justified.
But forgotten, or purposefully not mentioned in all the reparations rhetoric is the fact that the U.S. was far less involved in the importation of African slaves than other nations. In fact slavery was actually banned by the U.S. Congress in 1808, though it obviously continued even after the time of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
The U.S. slave population rose through what was called natural increase, which was an interesting way of referring to procreation. Slaves had babies who were themselves born into bondage, increasing the American slave population.
But by 1860 seventy-five percent of white families in America did not own a single slave. The vast majority of slaves were located in what’s historically considered to be the traditional south. And even in the south only a minority of white families owned slaves. Most slaves were owned by the larger, wealthy plantation and property holders.
An interesting note is that Native American tribes originally in the southern states also owned African slaves. By the time the Civil War broke out roughly eight thousand African slaves were being held in the Indian Territories when the five tribes had been previously relocated from the south. The Native American tribes took their slaves with them when they left.
People of other races, including many Caucasians were held in indentured servitude. Certainly not the same as slavery, but many of those indentured servants suffered horrible treatment and abuse as well. And much of it was based on ethnicity. Other examples abound but suffice it to say that the story of slavery in America isn’t as cut and dried as some would have you believe.
In addition to the trillions of dollars that have already been spent on government programs, set-asides, public assistance, and other compensation to try to help make amends to black Americans for the bondage in which they were held during America’s early history, there also was a war fought on American soil which ultimately led to the freedom of all blacks held in slavery.
Over three hundred sixty thousand Union soldiers died during the War Between the States. And another two hundred eighty two thousand Union soldiers were wounded and maimed during the war.
Included in that number was my Great Grandfather Henry who was wounded at the Battle of Antietam (the battle which prompted President Lincoln to release his Emancipation Proclamation), and once again he was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. Even after being transferred to the Invalid Corps (later renamed the Veteran’s Reserve Corps), though physically unable to serve in the regular army due to his wounds he was cited for bravery again at the engagement at White House Landing in Virginia.
Many black American politicians and leaders will argue that the Civil War never was about freeing the slaves but they are wrong. The war indeed was about slavery.
The South’s economy was dependent upon slavery, without it the southern states would have collapsed economically. The South fought hard to preserve that which they viewed as necessary for their very survival⏤just as President Lincoln was determined to end slavery and bring the South to its knees and returned to the Union.
I mention my Great Grandfather Henry, along with all the others who fought and died or were wounded during the war because it’s relevant to today’s argument about reparations. A very dear price has already been paid by white Americans as a result of slavery. A price paid by soldiers and families who never owned a single slave, yet fought to bring an end to the institution of slavery.
I certainly never owned a slave, nor to the best of my knowledge did any of my ancestors. The vast majority of white Americans today have ancestors who also never owned a slave, considering the seventy-five percent figure provided by Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., a prominent black American historian from whom the figures I have cited came.
There’s a great many Americans who had ancestors who fought on Civil War battlefields. Many of them making the ultimate sacrifice or losing limbs to end the scourge of slavery. And trillions of dollar have already been spent to try to help benefit black Americans.
And while Danny Glover, Sheila Jackson-Lee, and many other Democrats may think something more is owed, I for one think the debt has been paid in full by my Great Grandfather Henry a long time ago.