Slavery reparations lawsuit (re USA)

SlaveryDescendants of 19th-century African-American slaves filed nine lawsuits seeking reparations from corporations in various US federal courts during 2002.  The plaintiffs alleged that the defendant corporations (financial, railroad, tobacco, insurance, and textile companies), or their predecessors, had ties to the trans-Atlantic slave trade and were unjustly enriched from the labour of African-American slaves.  In October 2002, these lawsuits were consolidated into one class-action lawsuit.  In 2004, the court dismissed the claim but allowed the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.  The plaintiffs submitted an amended complaint making claims of intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress, civil rights violations due to the denial of property rights and consumer fraud.  In July 2005, the court again dismissed these claims.  The opinion noted that these claims raised a “political question”, and therefore were beyond the scope of the federal judiciary.  In addition, the court found that the plaintiffs did not have proper standing to bring the lawsuit against the named defendants and that the plaintiffs’ claims were precluded by the statute of limitations.  In December 2006, the US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit reversed the dismissal of the plaintiffs’ consumer fraud claims, while upholding the dismissal of the balance of the plaintiffs’ claims.  The court of appeals found that questions remained as to whether consumers were defrauded by the failure of the defendant companies to reveal their alleged collaboration with slavery.  In May 2007, the plaintiffs petitioned the US Supreme Court to hear their appeal of the 2006 court of appeals decision.  The Supreme Court denied the plaintiffs’ petition in October 2007, declining to hear the case.

- “A Federal Court of Appeals Revives a Class Action Seeking Compensation for Slavery in America”, Anthony Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 19 Dec 2006
- “Most of slavery reparations suit thrown out”, Mike Robinson, Associated Press, 14 Dec 2006
- “Slave descendants attempt to revive reparations lawsuit against 17 insurers and banks”, Associated Press, 27 Sep 2006
- “The Lawsuit Brought by African-Americans Seeking Compensation from Corporations for The Wrongs of Slavery: Why the Opinion Dismissing the Suit Is Unpersuasive”, Anthony Sebok, Findlaw’s Writ, 8 Aug 2005
- “Slave reparations case dismissed”, Associated Press, 26 Jan 2004
- “Federal Lawsuit Seeks Slave Reparations from Three Companies”, William Baue, Social Funds, 18 Apr 2002

- National Legal and Policy Center: [PDF] The Case Against Slave Reparations, Peter Flaherty & John Carlisle, 25 Oct 2004
- CSX: Statement in Response to Demands for Financial Reparations, 16 Aug 2002
- Aetna: Statement Regarding Slavery Reparations Lawsuit, 27 Mar 2002

- Plaintiffs’ press release: “Slave Descendant Takes Reparations Case to the United States Supreme Court”, 23 May 2007
- [PDF] Corporate Restitution for Slavery: Plaintiff and Defendant Information, Deadria C. Farmer-Paellmann [plaintiff]

US Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit: In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation:

Decision reversing the lower court’s dismissal in part and affirming the dismissal in part, 13 Dec 2006 
- briefs by plaintiffs & defendants are here
- MP3 audio of oral argument is here

US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois:

In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation, 6 Jul 2005 [opinion dismissing plaintiffs’ claims]
- [PDF] In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation - Defendants' Joint Motion to Dismiss, 18 Jul 2003
- [PDF] Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston et al. - First Consolidated and Amended Complaint and Jury Demand, 16 Jun 2003

US District Court for the Eastern District of New York

- [PDF] Farmer-Paellmann v. FleetBoston et al. - Complaint, 26 Mar 2002

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Article
27 March 2002

UNITED STATES: Slavery Lawsuit Aims for Social Change

Author: Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service

A class-action lawsuit filed by some 35 million descendants of black slaves against three companies with ties to the slave trade is aimed as much at shaking up U.S. society as at winning financial returns, say lawyers and observers.

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Article
26 March 2002

US firms face slave reparations suit

Author: BBC News

Three major US corporations accused of profiting from the slave trade before it was abolished almost 150 years ago are being taken to court by African-Americans seeking compensation for the abuses suffered by their ancestors. The lawsuit is the first of what is expected to be a deluge of claims against insurer Aetna, railroad firm CSX and financial services firm Fleet Boston.

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Article
24 March 2002

Aetna, CSX, FleetBoston face slave reparations suit [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

The complaint, to be filed Tuesday in federal District Court in New York, asks for unspecified damages, restitution for unpaid slave labor and a share of corporate profits derived from slavery.

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Article
24 March 2002

Reparations gain legal, academic interest [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

From college campuses and state capitols to courthouses and corporate boardrooms, reparations is suddenly a hot topic.

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Article
21 February 2002

Brown Bros.: Loans gave planters cash to buy slaves [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

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Article
21 February 2002

Corporations challenged by reparations activists [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

..So far, the reparations legal team has publicly identified five companies it says have slave ties: insurers Aetna, New York Life and AIG and financial giants J.P. Morgan Chase Manhattan Bank and FleetBoston Financial Group...Independently, USA TODAY has found documentation tying several others to slavery: Investment banks Brown Bros. Harriman and Lehman Bros.; Railroads Norfolk Southern, CSX, Union Pacific and Canadian National; Textile maker WestPoint Stevens; Newspaper publishers Knight Ridder, Tribune, Media General, Advance Publications, E.W. Scripps and Gannett, parent and publisher of USA TODAY...USA TODAY contacted all the companies named in this article. Some acknowledged the evidence, others disputed it. Many declined comment. Of those that did comment, virtually all said the current company isn't liable for what happened before the Civil War.

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Article
21 February 2002

Farmer-Paellmann not afraid of huge corporations [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann has spent five years digging for evidence that ties Corporate America to pre-Civil War slavery. She confronted Aetna in 2000.

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Article
21 February 2002

Farmer-Paellmann not afraid of huge corporations [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

Deadria Farmer-Paellmann has spent five years digging for evidence that ties Corporate America to pre-Civil War slavery. She confronted Aetna in 2000.

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Article
21 February 2002

FleetBoston: Traced to slave-trading merchant [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

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Article
21 February 2002

Insurance firms issued slave policies [USA]

Author: James Cox, USA Today

Various documents link modern companies to antebellum slavery. Reporter James Cox takes a look at the evidence and the companies' responses.

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