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"Apologies/Reparations"

March/April 2011 issue of Poverty & Race

We periodically offer a compendium of recent reports dealing with apologies and reparations around the world – for whatever lessons and models they might provide here at home. The most recent appeared in our Jan./Feb. 2009 issue. We’ll be happy to send you a collection of all earlier such versions; just send us a SASE (61 cents postage).
  • A federal government formal Native American Apology Resolution passed Congress in 2010 as an attachment to the Dept. of Defense Appropriations Act [sic] and is now Public Law 111.118, detailed wording in HR3326.

  • In November 2011, the City of Atlanta rededicated Fair St. SW (between Northside Dr. and Joseph E. Lowry Blvd.) as Atlanta Student Movement Boulevard SW.

  • In November 2011, Liberty, Mississippi dedicated a historical marker commemorating Herbert Lee, a voting rights activist who in September 1961 was killed at a local cotton gin in broad daylight in front of some dozen witnesses, black and white. His killer, the late state Rep. E.H. Hurst, was exonerated that same day by a coroner’s jury and never charged (and is not mentioned on the marker).

  • France’s state-run railroad has for the first time expressed “sorrow and regret” for its role in the deportation of Jews during World War II and is handing its station in Bobigny, a Paris suburb, to local authorities to create a memorial to the 20,000 Jews shipped from there to Nazi camps. (NY Times, 1/26/11)

  • Barbara Smith Conrad was the focus of racist furor back in 1957 when, as a Univ. of Texas-Austin student, she was cast as Dido, the Queen of Carthage, in a production of Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” opposite a white male lead—the Texas legislature threatened to withdraw state financing from the university if it did not replace her with a white Queen—which it did. In 1985, she returned to UT to receive a distinguished alumna award, and in 2009 she was honored by the Texas legislature for her distinguished later singing career, which included roles with the Metropolitan Opera and major symphony orchestras. Her story is the subject of a new documentary, “When I Rise” (OMDbPro.com) (NY Times, 2/8/11)

  • “Japan Apologies to South Korea on Colonization” (NY Times, 8/11/11)

  • Australia Apologizes for Aborigines, along with call for bipartisan action to improve their lives. (NY Times, 11/3/08)

  • “No-No Boy” was the title of a Dec. 28, 2010 NY Times short editorial in praise of Frank Emi, who died earlier that month at age 94. As a young man, he was sent to an internment camp in Wyoming after Pearl Harbor. After receiving draft notices in 1944, he and 6 others created the Fair Play Comm., signing a declaration challenging the internment policy and their conscription as affronts to the Constitution and American ideals, and refusing to serve. Originally mocked by other Japanese Americans and some of their organizations as “no-no boys,” Emi spent 18 months in prison at Leavenworth. In the 1980s, he joined the fight for redress for Japanese Americans deprived of property and freedom, and in 1988 Congress issued a formal apology.

  • Can’t Win ‘Em All Item: The Mississippi Div. of Sons of Confederate Veterans wants to sponsor a series of state-issued license plates to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, one of which will honor Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, an early leader of the Ku Klux Klan.

  • And of course the granddaddy of all recent positive events is President Obama’s Dec. 2010 signing of a landmark $1.15 billion settlement (Pigford II) of a class action documenting extensive discrimination by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture against black farmers, mainly in the form of loan denials (which in turn led to loss of farms) and access to agricultural subsidy programs. However, see “Black Farmers Still Losing Ground,” which describes the work of the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association – bfaa.us.org – in the Jan. 2011 issue of In These Times (if you’re unable to find it on the Internet, send us a SASE and we’ll mail you a copy). In addition, $3.4 billion is being given to Native Americans under a land trust claim (Corbell v. Salazar) for the Dept. of Interior’s mishandling of water and mineral rights on reservation land. Interestingly, the settlement includes up to $60 million to fund scholarships to improve access to higher education for Indian youth. It still must be approved by the U.S. District Court, which is holding a hearing on June 20, 2011. Further inf. from www.IndianTrust.com and John Boyd at www.blackfarmers.org. See also the Associated Press’s series on black land loss: http://www. theauthenticvoice.org/Torn_From_The_Land_ Intro.html. And the Administration just announced it will offer at least $1.3 billion to settle similar complaints re USDA payment and other assistance discrimination against female and Hispanic farmers. (Wash. Post, 2/26/11)

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