Saturday, December 12, 2009

ACRRA Urges USVI Slavery-era Disclosure Bill

Associated Press
USVI activists push for slavery-era disclosures
By DAVID McFADDEN , 12.10.09, 07:45 PM EST

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico --

An activist group is urging U.S. Virgin Islands lawmakers to require corporations doing business in the Caribbean territory to research their histories and disclose any links to the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

Shelley Moorhead, head of the St. Croix-based African-Caribbean Reparations and Resettlement Alliance, said the legislation would not seek reparations for the descendants of enslaved Africans.

"It would serve as recognition for our ancestors who have gone to their graves without any kind of respect for their contributions," said Moorhead, who is black.

Sen. Terrence Nelson of St. Croix, who plans to run for governor next year, said he will introduce a slavery-era disclosure bill in early 2010. A similar effort by another senator stalled in committee in 2005.

In the 17th and 18th centuries,more than 100,000 African slaves arrived in this territory, which was then the Danish West Indies. Many were sold at slave markets and shipped to Britain's American colonies while thousands remained as the property of Danish settlers. The U.S. bought the three-island territory from Denmark in 1917.

Nelson said he is aware disclosing involvement in the slave trade could be embarrassing for a company, but that would allow people to better understand slavery's legacy of racism and provide "healing" for some islanders.

Moorhead said only a change to the law will persuade companies to come forward.

A Chicago ordinance requiring disclosure of slavery ties spurred JPMorgan Chase & Co. in 2005 to acknowledge that predecessor banks had links to the slave trade.

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