Sankofa Study Circle

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What to Black people is the 4th of July? Why We Need Reparations

What to Black people is the 4th of July?  Why We Need Reparations

By Salim Adofo
National Vice Chairperson
National Black United Front

On July 5, 1852, in a meeting sponsored by the anti-lynching society, Frederick Douglass gave the speech "What to the slave is the 4th of July?" In his speech, he illustrated the terrible conditions that Black people face, living in America. He showed the contradiction of white America celebrating freedom, but at the same time denying it to Black people.

During the time of Frederick Douglass, the dominant society denied people of African decent access to a quality education, access to resources to build quality homes, and access to affordable healthcare.

In fact, according to the Supreme Court of the United States, in what became known as the Dred Scott Decision, Black people did not have any rights that a white person was bound to respect.

Now, 162 years later, one must ask the question, "What to Black People is the 4th of July?" Do Black people have a reason to celebrate the freedom and independence of America? Are Black people owed reparations?

In 2014, Blacks may no longer face "Jim Crow"; however, Blacks are confronted with a more sophisticated version titled "James Crow the II." Overt acts of white supremacy have been replaced, in some cases, with Institutional White Supremacy.

Criminal Justice System

For example, mainstream America will have you believe that the 13th Amendment of the Constitution freed African people from slavery, however it only legalized it. The 13th Amendment reads:

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Therefore, if one is convicted of a crime, you can be subjugated to "legal slavery."

This has proven to be very significant, because Black people are less than 20% percent of the population, yet are over 40% of the prison population. Once a Black person has a felony record, she or he is often denied government jobs, can no longer qualify for financial aid for college, disqualified from residing in government housing, and in many states disqualified from voting.

If one is unable to have a place to live, work, obtain a job, pay for school or is unable to vote to change the laws, she or he is being maneuvered into an illegal activity, just to survive.


In the area of housing, billionaire Donald Sterling was sued by the US Department of Justice for housing discrimination against Blacks in Los Angeles California in 2009.  Also in 2009, Bank of America was also sued for forcing bad mortgages of Black people and then foreclosing on their homes.


When it comes to the quality of education that Black people are receiving has improved, but there is a very long way to go.  In 2012 the Daily News reported that in NYC public schools, Black students have less advance placement classes, as well fewer science labs.  NPR reported in 2013 that Historically Black Colleges and Universities are receiving less funding than primary white institutions. Schools such as Morris Brown and St. Paul’s College have already closed their doors.

162 years later, Blacks are still people suffering political oppression, economic exploitation and social degradation because of the institutionalized racist policies and practices of the dominant society. This only strengthens the entitlement to reparations that people of African decent in America deserve.  The National Black United Front (NBUF) will address this issue during its town hall meeting titled “Gentrification and Discrimination in Housing and Education: Why We Need Reparations.”

The town hall meeting will take place during the 35th National Convention of NBUF at Howard University from July 10 – 13.  The town hall meeting will feature Leah D. Daughtry CEO of the 2008 Democratic National Convention Committee, Omowale Clay of the Non Governmental Organization (NGO) December 12th Movement International Secretariat, and Dr. Ray Winbush author of Should America Pay and director of the Institute of Urban Research at Morgan State University. The program will also feature Eugene Puryear, at large candidate for city council in Washington DC.

This event is free and open to the public.  For more information on the convention, please on the visit

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