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Big business is sent bill for slave trade
Posted: Sunday, September 9, 2001

FOR Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, it started with 40 acres and a mule. Like most American blacks of her generation, she knew all about the offer of land and livestock that the US government promised in the 1860s to every freed slave. She also knew how swiftly that promise was broken.

One day, researching genealogy in a New York archive, Farmer-Paellmann, 35, stumbled on a document that is helping to transform one of America's most divisive racial debates. She found a book that told plantation owners where to insure their slaves.

For the first time African-Americans, who have been demanding reparations for more than 250 years of slavery, had an identifiable corporate target. The policy was issued by a company that became part of America's Aetna insurance conglomerate. A crucial link had been made between past sins and present corporate assets.

After years of moribund protest, Farmer-Paellmann's discovery has helped rejuvenate a movement demanding modern retribution. "It's hot and it's going to get hotter," she said.

Next week a group of black intellectuals, lawyers and activists known as N'Cobra (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America) will hold a conference in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when plans will be made to launch a barrage of lawsuits against state institutions and corporations with connections to slavery.

Prominent black lawyers, including Johnnie Cochran, the successful defender of OJ Simpson, plan to sue the federal government to establish rights to compensation. Other lawsuits will target corporations "in the same way that Jews sued IBM for their involvement in the Holocaust", one legal source said. MORE

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