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Remembering Dr. Robert Brock’s Fight For Reparations In The ’90s


The fight for reparations has been going on for decades. Besides the late Congressman John Conyers‘ introduction of the still-yet-to-pass H.R. 40 reparations study bill in 1989, others like Dr. Robert Brock also fought for reparations for Black Americans.

The late Dr. Robert Brock was a Los Angeles campaigner for reparations in the 1990s. A former seaman in the Merchant Marines, Brock argued for direct payments to descendants of slaves, according to Constitutional Rights Foundation.

“The government owes us money on a number of different fronts,” he declared, “. . . for labor, for loss of culture and of humanity.”

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In fact, Dr. Brock spent a majority of his adult life promoting the issue of reparations in churches, community centers, and colleges, The Los Angeles Times reported in 1990.

“The government owes us money on a number of different fronts: for time, for labor, for loss of culture and of humanity,” Brock said. “It’s like an inheritance,” Brock explained. “We have inherited the ills of slavery. We also inherit a loss that was forced upon our parents.”

Besides speaking out for reparations, Brock even gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures on the redress petition he presented to the government in 1990, The Los Angeles Times reported.

“I don’t know if I’ll live to see reparations for Black people,” Brock said, “but I’ve been laying the foundation. Sooner or later, we will get what this country owes us.”

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In the 1990s, he traveled the country to promote a compensation idea–a $500,000 check from the federal government. Brock came up with the amount from an unsuccessful lawsuit Brock filed against the U.S. government in 1965 for the repair of slavery, The Washington Post reported.

Thousands of people would come to churches and community centers to hear Brock’s lectures, some of which were done with other pro-reparations advocates.

During one interview that was posted on YouTube by TransAtlantic Productions, Dr. Brock explained reparations.

“Reparations is a demand by us slaves and the descendants on the government of the United States of America and its individual and sovereign white men and white women,” he said.

He said those who should pay repair to Black people are those who “benefited from the taxing of slaves and a wicked slaves or a producer slavery…it was a slave order society under the protection of this government.”

Brock called for the government to take action, and he also wanted Black people not just to march for reparations but to demand reparations–or else.

During a Juneteenth Observance Rally in Washington, D.C. on June 19, 2000, he was among the community activists who spoke. The event called for Congress to apologize and make amends for slavery. He said he was tired of just marching that it was time for Black people to give the U.S. government an ultimatum. The speeches were captured by C-Span.

“What is a march unless there is an ultimatum,” he said adamantly. “Yes, that is a threat to the U.S government–Unless reparations are paid, we burn the capital down, if we have to… this is not violent. Police brutality against Black people is violent, raping and breeding Black women are violent, having us here for 300 years, that is violent.”

Photo: At a Juneteenth observance rally on June 19, 2000, Dr. Robert Brock calls on Congress to introduce legislation apologizing for its role in promoting and sustaining slavery, allowing payment of reparations, and establishing a Juneteenth national holiday. Image from a C-Span video on YouTube, 30-minute mark,

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