THE LAST WORD: Free Education for Students of African Descent

By Person-Lynn, Kwaku | Black Issues in Higher Education, January 9, 1997 | Go to article overview

THE LAST WORD: Free Education for Students of African Descent


Person-Lynn, Kwaku, Black Issues in Higher Education


THE LAST WORD: Free Education for Students of African Descent.

For decades, there have been discussions on how to properly compensate people of African descent for the hundreds of years of free labor provided during slavery in America. Models have already been established. Indigenous Americans (incorrectly called Indians because Columbus thought he landed in India) were forced onto reservations but are now courageously fighting in the courts to regain their land. The American Japanese are being financially compensated for being imprisoned during World War II in American internment camps. European Jews are being financially compensated by the German government for the atrocities they experienced in Nazi prison camps during the Second World War. Yet people of African descent have not been compensated for the massive tragedy they experienced here in America.

Estimates are that a person could walk across the Atlantic Ocean, from Africa to America, on the bones of millions of Africans who were killed, died or simply jumped off the slaving ships in the Middle Passage. And we have not even begun to discuss the millions who were enslaved in America -- the so-called "land of the free," which we now know only applied to Europeans immigrating to America, minus thousands of Europeans exploited during the "white slavery" period.

Enslaved Africans, in America, were not considered human. They were classified, in an early version of the U.S. Constitution, as only three-fifths of a human being. They had no rights whatsoever. Millions of African families were broken, separated and sold off to other plantations. Brutal beatings and mutilations were commonplace. Learning how to read was a crime. Retaining one's identity, dignity, religion, history, language, names and other traits were outlawed and violently prohibited. African women had to endure thousands upon thousands of rapes by their slave owners and overseers. African men were forced to stud, like animals, to produce more slaves and were not allowed to express their manhood for fear of death. Evolving out of a slave psychic takes many generations to accomplish.

It was once proposed to give all freed slaves "forty acres and a mule," but that was vetoed by President Andrew Jackson, himself a slave trader. Later, in the twentieth century, the policy of affirmative action was created to provide "equal opportunity" for people of African descent, but that was eventually watered down to include all the so-called "minorities. …

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