Descendants of Slaves Want $74 Billion in Reparations From Saint Louis University

Evan Poellinger | February 20, 2024
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Descendants of slaves who labored at Saint Louis University are now demanding $74 billion dollars in reparations from the university.

The $74 billion demand is multiple times larger than the university’s endowment, a comparatively paltry $1.5 billion. Allegedly, the calculation of the reparations was done according to “time-honored methods,” as stated by Julianne Malveaux, an economist and head of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s educational branch. The calculations apparently involved estimating a low wage of $0.05 cents an hour earned by the 70 slaves at the university, for 24 hours, from 1823 until the abolition of slavery in 1865.

Even this extravagant sum of money represents only a “conservative” estimate and the start of a conversation over reparations, according to Areva Martin, a lawyer working for the descendants of the slaves. The issue is not a new one, as the Jesuits, the Catholic order which runs Saint Louis University, have made previous apologies for the use of enslaved labor and, in 2021, pledged $100 million in reparations to descendants of slaves.

Georgetown University, another Jesuit-led university, promised $27 million to the descendants of the 272 slaves who were sold by the university in 1838 in order to pay off its debts.  Even this quantity represented only a small portion of the $1 billion Georgetown pledged in long term reparations to the descendants of those same slaves.

Saint Louis University has not yet issued a response to the reparations request. A spokesperson for the university did mention that “we acknowledge that progress on our efforts to reconcile with this shameful history has been slow, and we regret the hurt and frustration this has caused.”

Whether or not the university will ultimately contribute all or a portion of the calculated sum in reparations remains to be determined. Even if it does, it also remains a question of how the reparations will be distributed. In the Georgetown case “the foundation is not planning to give individual checks to each descendant.” Instead, the funds will be directed toward “racial healing and reconciliation work,” along with scholarships and grants.

If the descendants of the slaves at Saint Louis University have multiplied the quantity of reparations committed to by Georgetown seventy-four-fold, it seems that the exaggerated quantities of reparations demanded by descendants of slaves will only continue to skyrocket.