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The Lineage Based Reparations Battle Has Only One Just Outcome

An Open Letter to US Freedmen aka Black Americans

On the Issue of Lineage Based Reparations

Ongoing Ethnocide

The growing grassroots push for reparations has been tainted by an erroneous narrative questioning who the descendants of US chattel slavery are and how this Black population can possibly be distinguished from the current Black immigrant population. This ahistorical narrative is extremely dismissive and rooted in the inherent disrespect of American Freedmen. We write this as members of the grassroots American Freedmen reparations community. 

A so-called ‘legacy’ organization, the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC), spoke out against lineage based reparations in a recent press release, stating that this is the “second time” they’re addressing who qualifies for American Freedmen reparations. Did we not hear about it the first time because NAARC is only interested in maintaining their position as gatekeepers in the community?

Who gave NAARC, and the affiliated organizations mentioned in the press release permission to assert themselves as the leaders in this movement National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA), Black Lives Matter (BLM), Movement for Black Lives (M4BL), the NAACP, National Urban League, Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, National Congress of Black Women, National Council of Negro Women, and National Action Network? Did NAARC present their perspective to the masses of American Freedmen to obtain any consensus? In truth, NAARC’s letter is rife with common misconceptions and obtuse questions used to muddle the righteous justice claim of American Freedmen.

The Case Is Clear

Queen Mother Moore was a leading figure in the reparations struggle of the twentieth century, she authored “Why Reparations” in 1963. The pamphlet is an extensive account of atrocities American Freedmen endured during slavery throughout the Reconstruction era. She also writes a timeline on direct reparation payments throughout history. Queen Mother Moore’s language and specificity of the people harmed and their descendants who demand repair was very clear. Here is a powerful passage from “Why Reparations:”

“Relative to members of the Black Race who boast of one white parent, and wish to identify themselves with that parent rather than identify themselves with the Black Race, the Committee follows the custom [as] established by the United States Government and rules, ” …an individual with one drop of ‘Negro’ blood in his or her veins is considered a Negro.” However, the Committee declares that those individuals who do not wish to share in the just and fair Reparations, are not obligated to do so. They are however, obligated not to join the enemies [whites and Negro reparations oppositionists] of the American citizens of African descent to campaign against the payment of Reparations.”

NCOBRA, NAARC and IBW are acting as reparation oppositionists; they are obligated to remember their elders’ words and not act as the enemy of reparations for the American Freedmen. Queen Mother Moore was not talking about Africans, Caribbeans or Black Latinos.

She was discussing American Freedmen that can trace their lineage to United States chattel slavery.

Enter The Villain

NAARC is an organization that has not been relevant to American Freedmen in thirty years. This organization is in total opposition to the current political moment. IBW is also in association with known federal informant Ronald Karenga, a convicted torturer of black women. These are the organizations supposedly appointed to the American Freedmen struggle for reparations? This is a complete farce. The purpose of reparations is to address a specific historical “LINEAGE” that is descendant of chattel slavery in the United States. Atlantic world slavery and imperialism are out of place in this discussion.

The “confusion” being presented by anti-lineage based organizations such as NCOBRA, NAARC and the IBW is abhorrent. The eligibility assertion made by NAARC that the opposing organizations are promoting “genetic based lineage” is false. Lineage based reparations is solely based on identifying American Freedmen well-documented on US census records.

Lineage Is Clear

The United States government has documented both our enslaved ancestors as well as Black people who immigrated to the United States. Enslaved American Freedmen and their descendants will not be located on any immigration documentation. The tactics used to disrupt lineage based reparations are not going unnoticed and will continue to be fiercely refuted. Let there be no mistake, the American Freedmen population may not have a census designation but we know exactly who we are. We are a distinct ethnic group that will not be collapsed under a false notion of universal Blackness.

Like American Freedmen lineage, the records of formerly enslaved American Freedmen (and their descendants) demanding the United States government pay reparations is another subject well documented in US History. On March 11, 1867 H.R. 29 was introduced. This bill outlined land confiscation within the “Confederate States of America” to be distributed to former slaves. 

Sacred Work

Our ancestor Callie House, was imprisoned in 1918 for daring to fight for the type of legislation being delayed by derisive notions that enslaved American Freedmen descendants are a mystical group of hard to designate people in America. American Freedmen and their ancestors who built America deserve better.

We, the descendants of the formerly enslaved American Freedmen, will be as vigilant as our ancestors in ensuring the protection of our inheritance. We will confront disrespect and demand accountability from parties convoluting our full repair. We will confront those who seek to devalue our lineage with attempts to revise the history of the American Freedmen reparation movements.

We are here to say you will handle our people with the utmost respect within this sacred work of repairing our ancestral harms. Do not tell us it’s difficult to know who’s been fully harmed as Black people living in America. We have no qualms directing you to American cemeteries throughout the country where our ancestors have been laid to rest for hundreds of years.

Some of these cemeteries have been discovered underneath American colonial city buildings. American Freedmen lineage is abundantly clear to the people and the government. Any confused parties are implored to research the history of American Freedmen. 

Hallowed Contribution

American Freedmen created a culture in the United States which is inextricably linked to our experience as enslaved people. We ask NAARC this, can someone simply move to Nigeria to become Yoruba? Can someone move to Ghana and become Asante? Why are American Freedmen expected to subsume the entire diaspora? If everyone can be American Freedmen then who are we? 

In the era before the 1965 Immigration Bill, the numbers of Black immigrants were minuscule compared to our current era. Today these groups are here in larger numbers and have created their own separate ethnic based communities. This is why you have places such as “Little Liberia” and “Little Haiti.”  What do these communities have to do with American Freedmen culture? Kwame Ture and Shirley Chisholm worked within established American Freedmen movements for liberation. They did not make the same distinctions current Black immigrants have made. 

Doppelganger As Reaper 

It’s outrageous that NAARC would even mention Barack Obama, Kamala Harris and Colin Powell in this conversation; they are obstructionists directly involved with American Freedmen oppression. During the 2004 U.S. Senate race in Illinois, American Freedmen Republican Alan Keyes had this to say about Obama:

“Well, frankly, I think that because of my race, race is no longer on the table.”

As a matter of fact, I think it’s kind of strange—it’s one of those things that shows that sometimes people don’t think things through. Barack Obama and I have the same race—that is, physical characteristics. We are not from the same heritage. And it’s about time people started to realize that there’s something racist about not looking at the specific heritage of individuals, but only looking at their skin color.”

“My ancestors toiled in slavery in this country. They were people who were directly a part of the oppression of slavery in this country. My consciousness, who I am as a person, has been deeply shaped by my struggle—deeply emotional and deeply painful—with the reality of that heritage and what it says about humanity, what it says about conscience, what it says about the terrible possibilities of human wickedness and injustice.”

“And that’s why, I believe, the slaughter of innocent life and the young is a direct challenge to me, because of my heritage—not to do, with respect to that innocent life in the womb, what others did with respect to my ancestors. That’s a burden I bear. It’s also a great challenge that I feel.”

Obama remarked,

“Well, you know, I guess Mr. Keyes started off making a point that, somehow, he is more authentically African American than I am. You know, I obviously find that offensive, but moving forward, I thought this was a question about race.”

NAARC, NCOBRA and IBW continue to negate Obama’s ethnicity by pushing him into this discussion. American Freedmen are an ethnic group that Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States is simply not a part of. The ethnicity of a formerly enslaved population should be respected and protected. 

Obama also clashed with American Freedmen politicians in 2015 during Baltimore’s Freddie Gray uprisings.  While addressing the growing clash between American Freedmen youth in Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department Obama referred to our young people as a “Handful of criminals and thugs who tore up the place.” In reaction to Obama’s comment Baltimore City Councilman Carl Stokes said, 

“You might as well just call them [n-words]” if you’re going to call the city’s youth thugs. We don’t have to call them names such as that.”

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield had this to say on Obama’s comment,

”These are children, high-school students, you know, and I would not want to classify them as thugs.” […] “Certainly they are lawbreakers, but they’re still children. […] These are youth, these are teenagers who are misguided, who don’t have the same maturity that adults have, and I would not venture to call them thugs.” 

Obama, Powell and Harris have actively worked against Black liberation in America. They are also descendants of immigrants. How ironic is it that the people previously named were put in positions that American Freedmen still have not been able to access. 

Muddying The Water

NAARC mentions the murder of Amadou Diallo, here is a perfect example of Black immigrants making disinctions based on ethnicity in America. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson and the late great Johnnie Cochran mobilized behind Kadiatou Diallo (Amadou Diallo’s mother.) Al Sharpton was instrumental in the building of the Amadou Diallo Foundation. In return for the diligence American Freedmen activism provides, Kadi Diallo fired Johnnie Cochran and hired a white lawyer. Alton Maddox Jr., an Al Sharpton ally, was quoted saying in an op-ed article for The New York Amsterdam News.

”Make no mistake about it,” […] ”the mother of Amadou Diallo . . . is no Rosa Parks.” While Parks ”retained and stuck with an attorney of African ancestry,” […] Kadiatou Diallo ”has suspiciously chosen to replace attorney Johnnie Cochran with a Wall Street law firm which has no history of rocking the boat or threatening the status quo.” 

Maddox Jr. goes on to say,

”All that the African community has done for Diallo,” […] ”she announced (through her recently retained white attorney) . . . that it was time for the city to heal from the racial strife caused by the marches and demonstrations in the aftermath of her son’s death. She is either an opportunist or a fool or . . . both. Civil disobedience did not cause this city’s racial strife.”

Kadiatou Diallo chose to side with the system of white supremacy instead of resisting it. Therefore breaking the social contract between American Freedmen and Black immigrants. 

Kadiatou Diallo was also able to petition the US government for repair. The descendants of US chattel slavery deserve the same redress. Diallo’s mother Kadiatou Diallo is quoted talking about the ways she’s putting the settlement money she was awarded towards her specific ethnic advocacy. 

“The foundation will be working on bringing the Amadou Diallo scholarship that has been proposed to help [immigrant] students, because, you know, my son came to America for a reason. He wanted to gain higher education in an American college.” 

American Freedmen should have the same opportunity. 

Carrying The Weight

Like Amadou Diallo, the murder of Eric Garner was a tragedy. The harm his immediate family suffered in the aftermath is the type of injustice American Freedmen can never see repaired. Erica Garner (Eric’s daughter) passed away at the age of 27. Her mother Esaw Snipes was quoted as saying:

“The only thing I can say is that she was a warrior […] She fought the good fight. This is just the first fight in 27 years she lost. I warned her every day, you have to slow down, you have to relax and slow down”

Erica Garner herself was quoted saying:

“That’s the most annoying question I get. People ask, ‘when will you stop marching? What do you want from marching?’ He was my father, […] I will always march.” 

The direct result of generational harms can not be denied in the Garner family case. Even though families dealing with police violence have access to monetary redress, the lasting epigenetic effects on American Freedmen families will never compare to any other ethnicity in the US.

American Riches

The wealth of America, without a shadow of a doubt, was built on the centuries of free labor from American Freedmen. Any organization representing the American Freedmen community that denies this simple fact is illegitimate. Slave labor established this country as a global economic power.

Throughout history the harms of America were inflicted in overwhelming numbers to the descendants of US chattel slavery, not Black immigrants. Additionally, the decision to enter a racialized society was not afforded to American Freedmen. US racism is a system of oppression. Systemic oppression started with US chattel slavery and American Freedmen were the targets of every form of racialized discrimination that was created after emancipation.  Below is just a small selection of historic events. Let’s look at how many Black immigrants would have actually been affected.

The Homestead Act, May 20 1862:

White people were given land by the American government, leaving behind American Freedmen. The 1860 US census documents 526 African immigrants and 7,353 immigrants from the West Indies. The American Freedmen population was not documented on the US census until 1870 at which time our numbers exceeded 4 million. The outrage and injustice of 4 million people is being conflated with the experiences of a miniscule number of Black immigrants. 

Redlining 1933: 

In 1933, the US government started a program to segregate America’s housing market. The 1930 US census documents 0 African immigrants and 23,512 West Indian immigrants. In contrast, 1.7 million Italians were the highest immigrant population at the time. The 1930 US census documents 11.9 million American Freedmen impacted by Redlining. 

War on Drugs, June 1971

President NIxon declared a “War on Drugs” in 1971. The 1970 US census records 61,463 African immigrants (once again 1,008,533 Italians were the highest immigrant population). The US census shows in 1970, 22.6 million American Freedmen were about to be impacted by this war. 

Justice Delayed

Lineage based reparations is indisputable reparative justice. From 1619 through the present day, American Freedmen have yet to be approached in this conversation with the honor that has been earned. NCOBRA, NAARC and IBW do not speak for the American Freedmen justice claim. These organizations do not and will never have the right to obscure our struggle for reparations with shameless ethnicity erasure tactics. NCOBRA, NAARC, IBW and all other agent provocateurs want to give American Freedmen inheritance away to ALL Black people in America. This will not happen and we are here to ensure the success of lineage based reparations. 

For truth, solidarity, and our ancestors we implore every American Freedmen to make their disapproval and righteous anger known. Respectability politics will never prevent organizations like these from bastardizing our reparations claim. We will not allow respectability politics to influence the way we address NCOBRA, NAARC, IBW, and other irrelevant community leeches. We ask that the real grassroots reparations movement  embody the strength of every ancestor that built America to ensure these Black gatekeepers understand fully that their time is up!

Lineage based reparations and direct cash payments is not a negotiation. It is a sacred demand that we owe to our ancestors, our people and future generations of American Freedmen.

About the Author

Morgan Malachi is an activist from Philadelphia. She represents the Tubman House Center for Reparative Justice. Find out more at Please follow her on Twitter.

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