N’COBRA’s Open Letter to the Staff and Students of the University of Chicago, Its Trustees and Administrators, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama
The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparation in America, N’COBRA, along with numerous Chicago-area community organizations and businesses, stands in solidarity with the Reparations At the University of Chicago Working Group. In addition, N’COBRA fully endorses their demands and will work alongside them to that end.
With the publication of Craig Steven Wilders’, Ebony and Ivy, tremendous research of the Academy’s involvement in the crimes of against African humanity was compiled in one text.
Prior to that publication, those of us in the reparations movement pieced our data together from various sources. Works like Medical Apartheid, by Harriet Washington, documented the early gynecological experiments and operations on African women withholding the use of anesthesia – proclaiming that Black women did not feel pain. Washington also documented the robbing of Blacks graves for experimentation as well as numerous other violations.
There was the book, The Race, by Kiarri Cheatwod, who told of Harvard University’s early beginnings of buying sick and dying Africans fresh off the ships. Dying from what was termed the bloody flux, a terminal form of diarrhea. Having barely survived the Middle Passage, these Africans’ horrid ordeals were not nearly over. Harvard was able to, as a result of this practice, attract white student from all over the Americas and Europe to learn on “live cadavers.”
Aside from the physical abuse mentioned, or that like Georgetown where Africans and their descendants were physically enslaved on the campuses, the most pernicious evil entanglement of the Academy was the “scholarly” rationale provided that justified the entire institution enslavement.
Copious volumes of pseudo-science was produced to “prove” white superiority and black inferiority, arguing in many cases that Blacks were a sub-human category of beings. All of this early scholarship was used to validate the system of enslavement, torture, rape (and numerous forms of sexual psychopathy) exploitation and abuse, and also to minimize or obscure the true purpose of this evil – in the word of Ta Nehishi Coates – plunder!
To the Scholars and Students of University of Chicago
Today the Academy continues in this vein by crafting various theories on the individual causation of inequality, ignoring, avoiding, again minimizing and obscuring, and even purposely hiding the historical roots of the wide ranging inequality that exist between White and Black America today.
We are hopeful that with this uncovering of the University of Chicago’s history, that scholars on this campus will begin a new course of scholarship – and students will demand it – that makes the case for targeted racial public policy for descendants of Africans injured through 246 years of enslavement, 100 years of America’s form of apartheid, Jim Crow, as well as the current crimes against our humanity. Yes reparations! – based on the true causes of inequality and the increasingly body of work that indicates that neutral policy does not affect all in a symmetrical way – but can have an even widening outcome of the gaps in the areas where the policy was initially intended.
To the Trustees and Administrators of the University of Chicago
By being provided this knowledge that the University of Chicago was built as of result of the gravest crimes in human history, and understanding universally that anyone who benefits willing or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowing from a crime, are also criminal, you are called to act. Until this University begins to address the demands of the RAUC WG, you are conferring the mantle of “criminal” on all those who guide this university, instruct at this university, learn at this university and even sustain this university in any way from donors to janitors. Crimes against humanity has no limitation from which those who were injured, or have inherited a legacy of injury, from demanding justice and repair. Those who are the inheritors and beneficiaries of these crimes, regardless of when they were created, are obligated to engage in the full repair of those injured.
It is no secret that Descendants of Africans Enslaved in the United States are still injured. The demands of the RAUC WG are fair and just, are entitled to full consideration and implementation and are worth repeating here:
- immediately acknowledge the hundreds of [enslaved African descendants] on the Douglas plantation whose work, suffering, and deaths gave life to the University of Chicago.
- immediately change the official founding of the University of Chicago to April 2, 1856—the day it agreed to accept as its founding endowment [for] the land
- establish a truth and reconciliation committee [that would]:
- further study the university’s connection to slavery, Jim Crow, and other ongoing forms of discrimination…, serve as an informational hub for the wider campus community and the city at large…, pursue a real, lasting, and diverse program of reparations that will make a permanent difference in the lives of those who continue to be harmed from the legacy of slavery…, funded by the university…, led by community organizations from the South Side of Chicago,…[seek to locate] the direct descendants of the [enslaved] who worked on the Douglas plantation…, [assisted by] administrators, faculty members (from all departments), students (graduate and undergraduate) …, reach a consensus on the scope and best means of implementing a localized but comprehensive reparations program.
To Mayor Rahm Emanuel
Here in the City of Chicago, one of the first municipal attempts in America to right the historic wrongs against people of African descent was crafted – The Slavery Era Business / Corporate Insurance Disclosure Ordinance. After much debate, it was passed in 2000. Since that time many but not all, corporations that have entered contracts with the City have supplied disclosure reports. Those that did not are in jeopardy of having their contracts voided. With this new knowledge of the University of Chicago’s roots in the most violent and evil practices of enslavement, it is time to pause all contractual connections with the University and demand a full accounting of its actions.
In addition, because you have gone on record as proclaiming Chicago to be a model city of fairness and justice, in regards to President Trumps deportation policies, wouldn’t it be downright hypocritical (and perhaps even racist) of you to take a lessor stand against those who have been impacted by crimes against humanity. And being of Jewish descent, will you be saying justice for historic wrongs are good only for Jews and not Blacks. How anti-humanity would that be?
It is time that Chicago, in earnest, shed it racist past. You, Mr. Mayor, are afforded an opportunity right now to lead the way. Reparatory justice for people of African descent in Chicago. It begins with the City of Chicago holding the University of Chicago accountable, according to the law that exists.
To the Former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama
With you both having ties to the University of Chicago by way of professorship and administrator, N’COBRA is sure that this revelation is troubling to you both.
In addition, as we await the opening of the Obama library, it is important that you speak to this issue. Not only is the Obama library being built in Jackson Park – a park named after the one of the most genocidal individuals who ever lived, (nick-named “Indian Killer” and “Sharp Knife” by the Native Americans because of his brutality and orders to kill women and children), but now the revelation that the UC has its origins also in genocide and enslavement – crimes against humanity – in which there is no time limitation to when justice is owed.
As the President of the United States, Mr. Obama, you assisted in the repair of Jewish survivors in America of their holocaust that happened in Germany 70 years past their ordeal.
Mrs. Obama, while being in the White House, you commented on how sleeping in a house that our enslaved ancestors built made you feel.
It is of necessity at this time in Black Chicago history- American history, that you both say much and do much to ensure that the University of Chicago engages the Black community in reparatory justice.
With hands untied by the constraints of public office, we implore you to boldly endorse and take up the cause for the demands of the Reparations at the University of Chicago (RAUC) Working Group.
As these actions will only make Chicago much better off tomorrow than it is today, all of Chicago is indebted to the brave and brilliant Reparations At the University of Chicago Working Group!
Kamm Howard N’COBRA, National Co-Chair
Organizations that endorse N’COBRA’s Open Letter to the Staff and Students of the University of Chicago, Its Trustees and Administrators, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Former President and First Lady Barack and Michelle Obama, and that support the RAUC list of demands.
Justice Or Else!; Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign; The BRIJ Embassy for Black America; It Takes A Village, Org.; Clear The Airwaves Project; The United Afrikan Movement; Community Capital Organization; A New Beginning Starts Now; Afrika Enterprises; the Ujamaa Community Land Trust;, The TOMA Nation; United Black American Progress Association; “Buy Black” Business Movement; Sonic Healing Ministries; The UNIA-ACL Div 429; Life Builders United; Global Community Alliance; DuSable Works; The Chicago Alliance Against Racial and Political Repression; Just
Want to Be HEARD; Fair Rights for All People; Community Healing Network, Inc.; National Council Black Lawyers – Chicago