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Same date that President Lincoln was murdered in 1865!

I was blessed to speak on a Webinar panel on the evening of April 14, 2021, to discuss H. R. 40, the Reparations Bill sponsored by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX). It was approved by a 25-17 vote, moving the bill from the Committee to the House of Representatives for a vote within weeks.

H.R. 40 was originally sponsored by Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) in 1989, and was re-introduced every political season thereafter, until his retirement. “Reparations” Ray Jenkins, a Realtor, Precinct Delegate, and Reparations Activist from Detroit had demanded that Conyers introduce the measure, immediately after witnessing Japanese Americans receive $20,000 and a letter of apology as governmental redress for the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II. The bill was approved by Congress, and signed by the President to secure the enactment of the Civil Liberties Act of 1989.

In a prescient twist of fate, April 14th, 1865, is also the date that President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. Booth, an actor, used his professional background to gain access to the Ford Theater, where President Lincoln was watching a play, (unguarded) and shot him in the head. Along with others, Booth conspired to kill Lincoln after witnessing the President address a crowd on April 11th, 1865, declaring his plans to inaugurate a Freedmen’s Bank, open Black colleges, and create a path to access the newly freed Africans the opportunity to vote as citizens. Booth openly proclaimed “That will be the last speech he will deliver” and set up plans initially to kidnap the President; and ultimately to murder him.

Lincoln’s April 11th 1865 address to actualize goals of the Emancipation Proclamation, came just 2 days after General Robert E. Lee, leader of the Confederates, surrendered to the Union, marking the end of The Civil War.

Thus, the April 14th, 2021 passage of the H. R. 40 Reparations Bill out of The House Judiciary Committee, 32 years after its original introduction, should not just be viewed within the context of the 21st Century; It must be framed within an historical lens that intersects with April 14th, 1865–and the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Voting Rights and Citizenship for Blacks in America, became the ‘tipping point’ for the hateful, vile actions of Booth-whose conspiratorial plot of 1865 bears an eerie, discomforting resemblance to the conspiracy which inflicted deadly terror on this nation’s Capitol and its officials on January, 6, 2021.

America must seize the time,
America must remedy this crime,
and America must recognize the urgency of now, and demonstrate
“Why We Can’t Wait”!

It’s been 400 years, plus.
The House must approve.
The Senate must approve.
The President must sign.

Rev. JoAnn Watson

Rev. JoAnn Watson is a member of the National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) Commissioner and Former Detroit City Councilwoman, Detroit, MI.