Could Other NC Cities Pass Reparations for Blacks?
By Cash Michaels
When the Western North Carolina City of Asheville passed a local resolution, mandating reparations to its Black community; it was the shot heard around the world.
By a 7-0 unanimous vote, the Asheville City Council not only apologized for its role in enslaving Black people who essentially built the Buncombe County city during the 1700-1800s through hard, unpaid labor, but resolved to make investments to help area African-Americans to “…increasing minority home ownership and access to other affordable housing, increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities, strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice,” according to the ratified July 14th city resolution.
Afterwards, one of the resolution’s sponsors, Councilman Keith Young, said, “Hundreds of years of Black blood spilled that basically fills the cup we drink from today.”
Based on published reports, there are a few other cities, like Chicago and Evanston, Illinois that have passed some form of reparations measure. There are also state legislatures like New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania considering legislation. California’s state house reportedly passed legislation in June, and has sent it’s measure onto its state Senate.
But conspicuously, no other North Carolina town, city or county is on the list for even considering reparations, despite their documented roles in enslaving people of African descent.
That was the case for Black slaves who were considered property, considered 20 percent of the known population in 1808 of what was then known as Greensborough. Years later, the Underground Railroad would transport Blacks from Guilford County to safe haven up North until slavery ended in 1865.
That was the case in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, where according to D.A. Tompkins’ History of Mecklenburg County, slavery was introduced there in 1764. By 1860, the slave population is estimated to have been roughly 6800 out of the total population of 17,000. And during the Civil War, Mecklenburg slaves were “donated” to the Confederacy to help build fortifications in Eastern North Carolina, and work on the Statesville Railroad.
And a case can certainly be made for reparations in Wilmington, given the 1898 racial slaughter of Blacks by white supremacists that resulted in a bloody, and illegal grab for power, property and governance.
Sonya Patrick, head of the New Hanover County of the National Black Leadership Caucus and Black Lives Matter - Wilmington, says Asheville has certainly lit a spark that she hopes will light up the nation, and the embattled Port City.
“The state of North Carolina needs to take responsibility for the 1898 Massacre, a bill needs to be rendered to provide the following as a form of reparations: 1- All students of low level schools be provided a free Wi-Fi and computer. 2- Scholarship for all the descendants of the 1898 Massacre (which can be proved by census, legal documentation for example certificates (birth and death). 3 - Compensation for the Black Press. 4- Compensation for the churches and Black owned businesses that existed in 1898 and are still current. 5 - Compensations to victims of the descendants of stolen property,” Patrick says.
She notes that the NC Democratic Party passed a resolution for reparations in 2014, the state legislature ignored it.
“However, giving up is not an option,” Patrick says.