Danny Glover

Opening Statement on Slavery Reparations to the U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary

delivered 19 June 2019, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you, Mr. Coates.

Itís not often that you hear the words of a young man and they enliven your emotional memory, your historic memory, as he just did at this moment. Thank you so much.

I am deeply honored to be here today offering my testimony at this historic meeting about the reckoning of a crime against humanity that is foundational to the development of democracy and material well-being in this country.

A national reparations policy is a moral, democratic, and economic imperative. I sit here as the great-grandson of a former slave, Mary Brown, who was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1st, 1863. I had the fortune of meeting her as a small child.

I also sit here as the grandson of Reese Mae Hunley and Rufus Mack Hunley, my maternal grandparents, who were both born before Plessy v. Ferguson's Supreme Court decision in 1896. And for a significant portion of their lives, they worked as sharecroppers and tenant farmers in rural Georgia, until they were able to save enough money to purchase a small farm. They were subsistence farmers.

Despite much progress over the centuries, this hearing is yet another important step in the long and heroic struggle of African-Americans to secure reparations for the damages inflicted by enslavement and post-emancipation and racial exclusionary policies. Many of the organizations who are present today at this hearing are amongst the historical contributors to the present national discourse, congressional deliberations, and Democratic Party presidential campaign policy discussions about reparations.

We are also indebted to the work of Congressman John Conyers for shepherding this legislation. The adoption of H.R. 40 can be a signature legislative achievement, especially within the context of the United Nation[s] International Decade of People of African Descent.

We should also note that the Common Market nations and the Caribbean Community, CARICOM Reparations Commission, chaired by professor Sir Hilary Beckles, who is here with us today, has exercised a leadership role from which we, as a nation, can benefit.

A sustained, direct, effective policy, actions in full collaboration with African Americans and progressive citizens, allies, is the ultimate proof of the sincerity of our national commitment to repair the damages of the legally and often religiously sanctioned inhumanity of slavery, segregation, and current structural racism that limits full democratic participation and material advancement of African Americans and of our countryís progress as a beacon of justice and equality. So I call on all of the elected public officials in Congress to demonstrate your commitment in action today and stand forth with Congresswoman Sheila Jackson-Lee and co-sign -- co-sign H.R. 40.

In closing, with the insightful and still -- I close -- excuse me -- with the insightful and still relevant words of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior in 1968, and I quote:

Why is the issue of equality still so far from solution in America, a nation which professes itself to be democratic, inventive, hospitable to new ideas, rich, productive and awesomely powerful?

Justice for black people will not flow into society merely from court decisions nor from fountains of political oratory. Nor will a few token changes quell all the tempestuous yearnings of millions of disadvantaged black people. White America must recognize that justice for black people cannot be achieved without radical changes in the structure of our society. The comfortable, the entrenched, the privileged cannot continue to tremble at the prospect of change in the status quo.1

Thank you.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1 Widely cited online. Original Source: King, M.L. & Washington, J.M. (1991). A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches. New York: HarperCollins.

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