Memphis SCLC joins national leaders in support of reparations

Monday, members of Memphis Southern Christian Leadership Conference joined national leaders in support of plaintiffs who will take their case of reparations for slavery to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Chicago.

"What we would be given in terms of reparations would not match what African Americans have contributed in terms of blood, sweat, and tears, and knowledge," said Memphis SCLC President Rev. Dwight Montgomery.

The latest reparations lawsuit targets three companies that plaintiffs claim profited from slavery.  The list includes the Fleet Boston Company, CSX Railroad, and Lloyds of London, which plaintiffs claim insured slave ships.

Memphis attorney Tarry Beasley said he disagrees with the premise of reparations for slave descendants, saying too much time has passed and the lawsuit won't hold up in court.  "Its going to be very difficult to determine the defendant in this case," he said. "You are really going to have to explain to a lot of people as to why they should pay for an act that occurred over 140 years ago."

In fact, Beasley maintains that if there are reparations, they should go to the southern states that were decimated by the Civil War.

Reverend Montgomery counters that slavery was a crime, and those who profited from it should pay.  "Of course the reparations and all that is being asked for can't be done," Montgomery said. "At least there needs to be some kind of middle ground of which we can reach, that will be beneficial and certainly a symbolic gesture that is deserved by the African Americans of this nation."

Opponents of reparations said it would be impossible to try to locate and pay everyone who claims to be a descendant of slaves.  However the SCLC and others point out that reparations were awarded to holocaust and Japanese internment victims, and many feel African Americans should also get some type of assistance for past wrongs.