James Forman presents a bill for $500 million in reparations to Baptist leaders on May 17, 1969.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 1/01/2000
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 2021
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On May 17, 1969, civil rights activist James Forman (b. 1928) presents to the American Baptist Convention, meeting at the Seattle Center Arena (now Key Arena), a demand for $500 million in reparations to African Americans to compensate for the years of slavery and racial discrimination. Forman's National Black Economic Conference, part of the Detroit-based Interreligious Foundation Community Organization, sponsors the campaign for reparations.

Forman also presented the demand to other church bodies, including the United Presbyterian General Assembly in San Antonio, Texas.

Forman began his campaign for reparations for the purpose of funding African American colleges and universities, television and radio networks, publishing houses, and a land bank. Forman later wrote, "Reparations did not represent any kind of long-range goal in our minds, but an intermediate step on the path to liberation."

Forman was provided the opportunity to speak by the new president of the convention, Rev. Thomas Kilgore Jr., an African American. Rev. Kilgore stated, "I don't think $500 million is an unrealistic figure when it is only 1/160th of the gross national product. I don't necessarily agree with Jim Forman's tactics and I'm not sure reparations are the word to use, but in substance I favor the idea."

There was no response from the Baptist Church national headquarters.


The Seattle Times, May 18, 1969, p. 49; James Forman, The Making of Black Revolutionaries, (Washington, D.C.: Open Hand Publishing Co., 1985).

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