The campaign to solicit reparations for slavery is extending across the Atlantic. Historians and activists campaigning against racism are urging the countries which oversaw the Atlantic slave trade 150 years ago to officially recognize slavery as a crime against humanity.
If that happens, it will open the door to calls for those countries to pay reparations to descendants of slaves. The European Memorial Foundation for Slave Trade is appealing to the leaders of Britain, the Netherlands, Spain, Denmark, and Portugal, to acknowledge slave trade as historic injustice. The group has already convinced the government of France.
Karfa Diallo, chairman of the memorial foundation, told reporters that the issue is a question of justice. The appeal is being backed by John Franklin, a representative of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, as well as Louis Sala-Molins, a renowned French historian.
Diallo says that although Europe has an ethnically diverse population, it can be traced accurately back to 16th and 17th century writings that attempt to justify slavery, and the racism still exists.
"Racism and discrimination persists in Europe," Diallo claims. "Young people of Caribbean and African ancestry are victims of it. And we know, historians have shown this, that racism was born in this story."
Diallo's organization was founded in Bordeaux, a former French slave port, in 1998. Allies have joined the cause in other cities throughout Western Europe where citizens became wealthy from the profits of slave trading.
France enacted legislation in 2001 that recognized slavery as a crime against humanity. Jacques Chirac, the president of France at that time, declared that May 10 would be a national day of remembrance intended for the victims of slavery. Now Diallo's group is using France's example as a call for other European states to follow France's lead.
Diallo's group wants the establishment of an international memorial fund to support 'School of Memory'. The school's curriculum would teach about the history of the slaves trade, to both descendants of slave traders and victims.
Diallo says that in the same way Germany gave reparations to victims of the Holocaust, there should be reparations to descendants of slaves.
"There are several reasons for this," Diallo said, "including its symbolic value, to restore the memory of this crime against humanity." Slavery was indeed an injustice, and no one questions that claim.
But rather than leaving the crimes in the past and moving forward to encourage racial equality, organizations such as this insist on bringing the issue up again and causing renewed animosity between ethnic groups.
"If we accept that it was a crime, then there should be reparations," Diallo says. "All crimes deserve compensation for victims and punishment for perpetrators." Such a statement is true, but since both the victims and the perpetrators are no more alive, the issue of compensation should be put to rest as well.