Mon, 3 August 2020
Thanks to the work of activists and intellectuals like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Jamelle Bouie, Black peoples’ demand for reparations have garnered growing attention among politicians, business leaders, university officials, and journalists. For those that argue that reparations are not possible or that too much time has passed, today’s guest has an important story to tell about a formerly enslaved woman named Henrietta Wood who sued for restitution in 1870 and won; paid $2,500, what is likely the largest sum ever awarded by a court in the United States in restitution for slavery. Wood’s story, which crosses multiple boundaries between lower and upper South, the antebellum and postbellum period, blurring the distinctions between, offers us valuable lessons about the history of slavery and freedom, and the lengths that different people went to in order to achieve both. More importantly, Henrietta Wood raises the question once again on people’s lips: what is owed to the formerly enslaved and their descendants? And demonstrates that such restitution is long overdue.