1. The plaintiff and plaintiff class are -formerly enslaved African-Americans or descendants of enslaved African-Americans who were forced into slavery from which the defendants unjustly profited.
2. The plaintiffs have alleged in nine (9) separate complaints filed in seven (7) jurisdictions nationwide that among other things:
a)Defendants and/or their predecessors in interest are corporations in the textile, transportation, financial, insurance, and many other industries, who were unjustly enriched through the profits they earned either directly or indirectly from the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade and slavery. This enrichment was to the detriment of the plaintiff class. All profits have continued to compound over time to serve as a basis of tremendous current wealth of many defendants.
b)Defendants and/or their predecessors in interest, individually and/or collectively, profited from the knowing and willful violation of all applicable prohibitions related to the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade.
c)Defendants and their predecessors in interest engaged in human rights violations, international norms, and crimes against humanity against plaintiffs and/or plaintiffs' ancestors that included direct or third-party liability for conspiring with slave traders, with each other and other entities and institutions, all of whom are not yet known, to ship Africans from Africa to America, even after the slave trade was declared illegal here, to enslave Africans in America, to separate families, to dehumanize Africans, and through other acts.
3. The plaintiffs demand, among other things, that defendants:
a)provide a full accounting of their actions, including, but not limited to, turning over all documents in their possession related in any way to the slave trade and slavery;
b)equitably disgorge all illicit profits;
c)be subject to and comply with an independent historical commission designed to fully examine their actions;
d)be subject to the imposition of constructive trust;
e)pay restitution in the amount equivalent to the present value of the stolen labor from the ancestors of the plaintiffs' class members that was wrongfully earned, retained and has yet to be accounted for; and
f)pay compensatory, exemplary and punitive damages and other relief.
4. This case presents some of the most important issues ever presented to a United States Court. The case involves allegations that blue chip U.S. corporations benefited and continued to benefit from acts including piracy, slavery, torture, rape, murder, theft of property and services and other human rights violations. The case also raises the issue of whether corporations can, should, and to what extent be held accountable for their role in these horrific acts.
5. The historical significance of the cases has been underscored by Harvard law professor, Charles Ogletree, Jr., who, writing in the New York Times, a week after the first filing, states:
The goal of these historic investigations is to bring American society to a new reckoning with how our past effects the current conditions of African-Americans and to make America a better place by helping the disadvantaged.
6. Ogletree notes the crucial importance of the judicial system in righting slavery's wrong:
The opportunity to use expert witnesses and conduct extensive discovery to get facts and documentation, makes the courtroom an ideal venue for this debate ...reparations litigation will show what slavery meant, how it was profitable and how it continued to affect the opportunities of millions of black Americans.
7. John Friedman, reporter for The Nation magazine, further references the case's historical significance:
The lawsuits that will be heard in Judge Norgle's court open a new chapter in African-American history.
Similarly, legal journalist, Andrew Brownstein, notes that these cases are no “ordinary” cases, but rather:
[c]onstitute the first wide-scale effort to bring the issue of slavery reparations from college text books and T.V. talk shows into the courtroom.
8. Likewise, Bill Spriggs, Director of the National Urban League's Institute for Opportunity and Equality in Washington, notes the suit's potential historical value:
The suits also open the door to a greater acknowledgement by the nation of the after affects of slavery and the discrimination that follows.
INTRODUCTION, JURISDICTION AND VENUE
A) The Transatlantic Slave Trade Resulted in the Deaths of Millions and Eviscerated Culture, Languages, and Customs of the Enslaved.
9. Millions of Africans and their descendants were enslaved in America from 1619 to 1865. Estimates range from 8,000,000 to 50,000,000. The practice of slavery constituted an immoral and inhumane deprivation of African life, liberty, human rights and cultural heritage. Furthermore, it deprived them of the fruits of their own labor. The institution of slavery in United States and its predecessor colonies consisted of the involuntary, lifelong hereditary system of chattel servitude.
10. The Dutch slave ship that sailed into Jamestown Harbor in Virginia colony in 1619 contained only 27 captive Africans, but by the end of the Trans-Atlantic Slave trade, more than two and a half centuries later, somewhere between 8 million and 50 million Africans had arrived in America in chains.
11. Historians estimate that one slave perished for every one who survived capture in the African interior and made it alive to the New World, meaning as many as 12 million perished along the way.
12. Not only did the institution of slavery result in the deaths of millions of Africans, it eviscerated whole cultures: languages, religions, mores, and customs. It psychologically destroyed its victims. It wrenched from them their history, their memories, and their families on a scale never previously, nor since, witnessed.
13. The institution of slavery expanded from Jamestown Harbor to twelve (12) more colonies. When these -colonies secured their independence and established their own governments, they began to develop an elaborate set of repressive statutes to regulate the relationship between slaveholder and slave. These statutes were called “Slave Codes.”
B. State Slave Codes Sought to Legitimatize Abuse, Subordinating and Exploitating Enslaved Persons, and Denying All Natural Liberties of Human Kind.
14. States continued to regulate the relationship between slave and slaveholder by passing increasingly elaborate and abusive Slave Codes which covered every aspect of life of the enslaved African. Although the laws varied from one state to another, they all agreed on some general principles:
enslaved Africans are not people but property; laws should protect the ownership of such property and should protect white people against any dangers that might arise from being near large numbers of enslaved Africans; enslaved Africans must be maintained in a state of subordination in order that the optimum discipline and work could be achieved.
15. For instance, South Carolina Law set forth that enslaved Africans:
shall be deemed, held, taken, reputed, and adjudged in law to be chattels personal in the hands of their owners and possessors, and their executors, administrators, and assigns, to all intents, constructions, and purposes whatsoever.
16. Enslaved Africans could not: testify in court against a white person, make contracts, leave the plantation without permission, strike a white person (even in self-defense), buy and sell goods, own firearms, gather without a white person present, possess any anti-slavery literature, or visit the homes of whites or free blacks.
17. The killing of an enslaved person was almost never regarded as murder, and the rape of enslaved women was treated as a form of trespassing rather than a capital crime.
18. Enslaved African women had to endure sexual exploitation, often bearing the children of their masters and overseers. Enslaved Africans were disciplined by whipping, imprisonment, torture, and mutilation -- sometimes leading to death -- and being sold off.
19. Some examples of cruel and inhumane acts committed against enslaved Africans in the practice of slavery under state Slave Codes are evident in the following advertisements for run-a-way slaves:Twenty dollars reward. Runaway from the subscriber, a negro woman and two children; the woman is tall and black, and a few days before she went off burnt her on the left side of her face with the letter M. Her children are both boys, the oldest is in his seventh year; he is a mulatto and has blue eyes; the youngest is a black, and is in his fifth year.
A wealthy man here had a boy named Reuben, almost white, whom he caused to be branded in the face with the words; “A slave for life'.
A negro man who says his name is Josiah, that he belongs to Mr. John Martin, living in Louisiana, twenty miles below Natchez. Josiah is five feet eight inches high, heavy built, copper colour; his back very much scarred with the whip, and branded on the thigh and hips in three or four places thus: “J.M.' The rim of his right ear has been bitten or cut off. He is about 31 years of age. Had on, when committed, pantaloons, made of bed-ticking, cotton coat, and an old fur hat very much worn. The owner of the above described negro is requested to comply requisitions of law, in such, cases made and provided for.
C) Enslaved Africans Built Our Nation, Yet All Were Denied the Basic Fruits of their Labor.
20. Although, it is a common perception that the South alone received the enslaved Africans, many of them arrived in ports throughout the North, including, the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam that later became New York City and parts of New Jersey. Integral to the colony from the start, slaves helped build Trinity Church, the streets of the city, including Broadway, and the wall, from which Wall Street takes its name, that protected the colony from military strikes.
21. Enslaved Africans in New York lived in attics, hallways and beneath porches, cheek to jowl with their master and mistresses. In death, many of these same Africans were banished to a separate burial ground, which lay a mile outside the contemporary city limits and contained thousands of bodies heaped one on top of another with little regard for the sanctity of their lives, even in death.
22. Research conducted by Howard University of 400 skeletons of buried slaves revealed that a significant portion were children under the age of 15 and the most common cause of death was malnutrition. The skeletons of the children revealed they had rickets, scurvy, anemia or related diseases. The adult skeletons show that many were simply worked to death. The highest mortality rate is found among women ages 15 to 20. Investigators have concluded that many slaves died of illnesses acquired in the holds of slave ships, from exposure to the cold, and from the trauma of being torn from their families and shipped in chains halfway around the globe. Researchers also concluded that slaves were worked to death by owners who then simply went out and bought new slaves.
23. On a more national scale, recent research has revealed that many of our esteemed and celebrated institutions of learning had their origins in the profits derived from the slave trade. For instance, money from the slave trade financed Yale University's first endowed professorship, its first endowed scholarships and its first endowed library fund. Moreover, in the 1830's, Yale officials led the opposition that prevented the building of the first African-American college, on the grounds that such an institution would have been “incompatible with the existence of Yale”. Nicholas and John Brown, two of the founders of what became Brown University were slave traders. Likewise, Harvard Law School was endowed by money its founder earned selling slaves in Antigua's cane fields.
24. Most early American industries were based on the cotton, sugar, rice, tobacco, and other products African labor produced. Railroads and shipping companies, the banking industry and many other businesses made huge profits from the commerce generated by the output of enslaved labor.
25. Enslaved Africans built the U.S. Capitol, cast and hoisted the statue of freedom on top of its dome, and cleared the forest between the Capitol and the White House.
26. Slavery fueled the prosperity our young nation. From 1790 to 1860 alone, the U.S. economy and corporate- America reaped the benefits of as much as $40 million in unpaid labor. Some estimate the current value of this unpaid labor at 1.4 trillion dollars.
D. State and Federal Government Outlaw the Trade from 1807-forward.
27. As early as 1799, many individual states outlawed the slave trade, years before it was abolished by the federal government.
28. In 1794, the Third U.S. Congress enacted a law barring the building or equipping of vessels fitted for the “carrying on of the slave trade.” As part of that law, Congress required forfeiture and payment of $20,000 by “all and every person, so building, fitting out, equipping, loading, or otherwise preparing, or sending away, any ship or vessel, knowing or intending that the same shall be employed in such trade or business ...or any ways aiding or abetting therein.”
29. In 1800, the US Congress made it unlawful for any U.S. citizen or resident “directly or indirectly: to have any interest in a slave-trade vessel, and granted jurisdiction to the federal courts to handle violations of the law.
30. In 1807, the United States enacted a law prohibiting the importation of slaves and required forfeiture and payment of $20,000 by persons who aided or abetted in the “building, fitting out, equipping, loading, or otherwise preparing or sending away” of vessels intended for the importation of slaves.
31. In 1820, Congress determined that the slave trade was so repugnant that perpetrators as well as their aiders and abettors should be subject to the death penalty and the slave trade should be formally equated to the international crime of piracy. Although, the slave trade was formally abolished by England in 1807 and by the United States in 1808, individuals, industries and the government, wholly dependent upon the economic benefits derived from the use of unpaid labor, continued to keep the trade alive by aiding and abetting in the illegal smuggling of enslaved Africans and by aiding and abetting in the institution of “breeding” enslaved Africans. Breeding continued since every child born enslaved, bore a capital value to its owner that far exceeded the cost to raise the enslaved child.
E. A Body of Law Develops Finding Slavery a Breach of Established and Fundamental Natural Law of Man.
32. As states abolished the slave trade before the federal government did, so too, did both state and federal courts create a body of common law finding slavery a violation of the natural law of man. As early as 1781, in one of the famous Quark Walker cases, Commonwealth v. Jennison, Chief Justice William Cushing of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts charged his jury as to the natural law against slavery:
whatever usage formally prevailed or slid in upon as by the examples of others on the subject, they can no longer exist... sentiments more favorable to the natural rights of mankind, and to that innate desire for liberty which heaven, without regard to complexion or shape, has planted in the human breast - - have prevailed since the glorious struggle for our rights [the Revolution] began ... slavery is in my judgment as effectively abolished as it can be by the granting of rights and privileges wholly incompatible and repugnant to its existence. (emphasis added)
33. Several years later in 1789 in a First Circuit case, Justice Joseph Story in the La Jeune Eugenie case, concluded that the international slave trade violated the natural law of man in that it was:
repugnant to the great principals of Christian duty, the dictates of natural religion, the obligation of good faith and morality, and the eternal maxims of social justice [and]... was inconsistent with any system of law that purports to rest on the authority of reason or revelation. And it is sufficient to stamp any trade as interdicted by public law, when it can be justly affirmed that it is repugnant to the general principles of justice and humanity.
34. Moreover, in Anderson v. Poindexter, 6 Ohio St. 623 (1857), the Ohio Supreme Court held that a slave coming into a free jurisdiction (with the consent of the master) for a temporary sojourn was automatically freed because slavery was repugnant to reason and the principals of natural law.
35. In fact, current-day legal scholars continue to write extensively about slavery always having been contrary to fundamental laws of our nation and the world. One esteemed Justice of the Supreme Court, Clarence Thomas, wrote in 1987 about a “higher law” that condemns inequality and hence, slavery. Thomas argues the “original intent” of the Constitution must follow the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, which should be read as hostile to slavery in order to conform with the “higher” principals of our nation that rest on natural law:Paine captured well the revolutionary meaning of basing a particular nation on a universal truth, the truth of human equality. Edwin S. Corwin described this many years ago as the “higher law background' of the Constitution. And Martin Luther King, Jr. brought out the contemporary significance of “higher law' well in his famous letter from a Birmingham Jail. Paraphrasing St. Thomas Aquinas, King declared, “A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God ... An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law.'
36. Like Justice Thomas' argument, that slavery has to be legally interpreted as against the specific intent of the Founding Fathers, Professor Hylton asserts, in 2003, that slavery cannot be viewed not as an institution sanctioned by law, but rather, :as a corruption or displacement of law”:We have to reject the notion that anything we would wish to call law would ever sanction such an institution. For the institution is founded on the absence of law.
Law and slavery are, in essence, “universal complements,' in the sense that one can exist in the space where the other is absent. Hence, the only morally consistent position that a state can take with respect to slavery is that it never cohabited with the institution.
37. Although the institution of slavery in the United States was officially outlawed in 1865, the smuggling of enslaved African slaves continued, de facto, beyond the 1950's. National archive records reveal that in the 1920's and 1930's, the NAACP received letters from African-Americans claiming to still be on plantations and forced to work without pay. Several claims were investigated and were found to be legitimate. Moreover, as late as 1954, the Justice Department prosecuted the Dial brothers in Sumpter County, Alabama because they held blacks in involuntary servitude. A vivid example of this phenomenon is presented in greater detail herein with the 104 year old Louisiana plaintiff, C. Doe, who was a former slave who did not learn of his emancipation until years afterwards and was subjected to horrendous abuse, intentionally designed to intimidate him from exercising his rights as a free man.
38. Measures called “Black Codes” guaranteed continued control of Blacks by white employers. As John Hope Franklin noted in From Slavery to Freedom:
the control of blacks by white employers was about as great as that which slaveholders had exercised. Blacks who quit their job could be arrested and imprisoned for breach of contract. They were not allowed to testify in court except in cases involving members of their own race; numerous fines were imposed for seditious speeches, insulting gestures or acts, absence from work, violating curfews and the possession of firearms. There was of course no enfranchisement of blacks and no indication that in the future they could look forward to full citizenship and participation in democracy.
39. Ten of eleven former confederate states instituted these “Black Codes” which were nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt to circumvent emancipation. Illegal contracts for labor were signed by the uneducated formerly enslaved with unconscionable provisions purposely designed to continue a system of unpaid servitude. The Codes, and other practices that developed that were specifically designed to subvert emancipation, were the result of a callous and intentional collaboration between the landed elite, the police (state) and commercial merchants in order to perpetuate a ready pool of landless, impoverished, and dependant workers.
40. The post-Reconstruction practices of peonage and sharecropping which continued well into the twentieth century were direct outgrowths of slavery that continued a system of complete control by the dominant culture. Peonage was a complex system where a black man would be arrested for “vagrancy”, ordered to pay a fine that he could not afford, and then incarcerated. A plantation owner or other white citizen or business owner would pay the fine and then hire the indebted prisoner until he could afford to pay off the fine. The peon was forced to work, locked up at night and if he escaped, was chased by bloodhounds until recaptured.
41. Likewise, from 1865 through the period well into early mid-1900's, African-Americans became sharecroppers on land leased from whites whose grandparents had owned their ancestors. These African-Americans were not allowed to vote, and were socially and economically relegated to the left-overs in education, earnings, and freedoms.
42. The commercial industries continued to knowingly benefit from these illegally constituted, but state-sanctioned, forms of slavery.
43. In fact, the long and continued resistance of the South to emancipation led to the stubborn and entrenched belief that white Southerners did not have to pay African-Americans for their labor. This led to a “dual ethic”, a code of treating white people according to a different standard as compared to black people.
44. Thus, even after Emancipation, the lives of African-Americans remained locked in quasi-servitude, due to legal, economic and psychic restraints that effectively blocked their economic, political and social advancement.
45. Also, during this period, terror was used as a tool to keep African-Americans tied to their former masters. The wholesale murder and terrorization of African-Americans continued with the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and other like organizations. Over 3,400 African-Americans were lynched between 1882 and 1930.
F) Legacy of Slavery: Racism and Traceable Disparities in Education Health Care, Housing, Economic Net Worth, Infant Mortality Rate, Literacy, Etc.
46. When the actual institution of slavery was finally formally ended, the vestiges, racial inequalities and cultural psychic scars left a disproportionate number of United States slaves and slave descendants injured and heretofore without remedy. It left all Americans with ingrained beliefs of the superiority of the Caucasion population which insured that inequality would continue as it has through to the present day in the form of racism.
47. This connection between our slavery past and lingering racism today is aptly described by Law Professor Keith N. Hylton who first describes the direct connection between racism and slavery:
American slavery, unlike Roman slavery, contributed greatly to the spread and resilience of racism. Slavery gave racist attitudes an economic function that would otherwise not have existed. First, the propagation of racist beliefs served the dominant slaveholding class by reducing likelihood that bonds would form between poor whites and slaves, whose economic interests were in many respects perfectly aligned. Second, racism served an economic function by reducing the payoff to slaves from gaining freedom ... The third reason slavery gave racism an economic function is the need to deter slave resurrections. This need ... justified the use of oppressive force ... Like a resilient virus, racism has a tendency to replicate itself in successive generations. The racist belief structure promoted in order to justify the oppression of slavery replicates itself overtime and is to some extent selfconfirming.
48. Hylton continues to describe how our slavery past begets successive replications of racism over generations:
It replicates itself over time because the first generation within an agency such as a police force will tend to screen for applicants that hold the same views. They will do this because of the tendency to train according to the methods that have been used in past, and in order to avoid dissension within the agency. Thus racism once imbedded in an institution is likely to remain for several generations until it works itself out.
49. More recently, a 1998 census report shows that twentysix (26) percent of African-Americans in the United States live in poverty compared to eight (8) percent of whites. The 1998 Census Report also showed that 14.7 percent of African-Americans have four-year college degrees, compared with 25 percent of whites. The same year, African-American infant-mortality rates were more than twice as high as those among whites. Federal figures also show that a black person born in 1996 can expect to live, on average, 6.6 fewer years than a white person born the same year.
50. African-Americans are more likely to go to jail, to be there longer and if their crime is eligible, to receive the death penalty. They lag behind whites according to every social yardstick: literacy, life expectancy, income and education. They are more likely to be murdered and less likely to have a father at home.
51. The economic depravation resulting from slavery can be gleaned from discrepancies in earnings between whites and blacks. Black families earn only $580 for every $1,000 earned by white families. Only 3.4% of all Black men earned $50,000 or more compared to 12.1% of white men. Additionally, 44.8% of black children live below the poverty line, compared to 15.9% of white children.
52. Documented discrepancies in net worth are a direct outgrowth of slavery and the lost inheritance from slave ancestors to their descendents. A comparison of income, net worth and net financial assets for black and white, middle-class families shows that, although blacks in the sample earned 70-85% of the income that whites earned, their net worth was only 16-18% of whites' net worth, and their net financial assets were zero. Another study showed that a typical white family enjoys a net worth that is more than eight times that of its black counterpart. This inequity is partly a result of the head start whites enjoy in accumulating and passing on assets. Some economists estimate that 80% of lifetime wealth accumulation results from gifts from earlier generations.
53. Defendants, through their predecessors-in-interest, conspired and/or aided and abetted with slave traders, with each other and other entities and institutions (whose identities are not yet specifically identified, but which are described herein as CORPORATE DOES # 1-100) and other un-named entities and/or financial institutions to commit and/or knowingly facilitate crimes against humanity, and to further illicitly profit from slave labor.
54. Plaintiffs and the plaintiff class are formerly enslaved Africans and African-Americans and their descendants who were forced into servitude from which the defendants unjustly profited.
55. Plaintiffs seek an accounting, constructive trust, restitution, disgorgement and compensatory and punitive damages arising out of defendants' past and continued wrongful conduct.