Missouri Descendants of St. Louis University’s Slave Builders Demand $74 Billion in Reparations

Descendants of slaves who built St. Louis University have demanding $74 billion in restitution for their ancestors’ unpaid work. However, the university’s endowment is barely $1.5 billion, indicating that demand surpasses the school’s assets by more than 70 times.

According to the Daily Mail, economist Julianne Malveaux estimates that the descendants are entitled to $365 million, based on the assumption that 70 enslaved individuals worked continuously from 1823-1865.The Descendants of St. Louis University Enslaved (DSLUE), a group of great-grandchildren of slaves who helped create the university, are lobbying for $365 million in monetary reparations.

They believe that with interest accrued over time, this money would be $74 billion. On Tuesday, descendants, economists, and civil rights attorneys gathered outside the Jesuit university, founded in 1818, to make their requests for reparations.

Areva Martin, a civil rights attorney, wrote a letter to University President Fred Pestello asking the university to reform. The university must acknowledge its history of owning, selling, and trafficking slaves, resulting in wage deprivation, cruelty, and dehumanization. She pointed out that slaves were transferred from Maryland to St. Louis particularly to build the college.

Martin, representing over 200 descendants of Henrietta Mills and Charles Chauvin, indicated interest in collaborating with university administration to develop a compensation plan.

Robin Proudie, Mills’ great-granddaughter, stated that they are not seeking a handout, but rather payment of the debt owed to them.

“We decided as a family that we would stand up not only for us but for all of the enslaved descendants of those who built this country.”

Economist Malveaux stated, “The calculations that we devised and the procedure that we employed are time-honored. The university, quite honestly, is late, careless, and incorrect.” Proudie founded DSLUE after learning her ancestors’ enslavement in St. Louis.

SLU recognized its historical role in slavery, which it characterized as a grievous sin. According to the university, it laments the delayed progress in reconciling with the past, recognizing the pain and anger it has caused.

“Continuing this work is a top priority for SLU and the Society of Jesus.” As we move forward, we seek to re-establish and deepen relationships with all descendent families, and to collaborate on how to best respect the legacy of those enslaved by the Jesuits.”

In December 2022, St. Louis established a commission to discuss reparations for descendants affected by racial policies, offering considerable issues in a city with a sizable Black population and a suffering socioeconomic status.

Mayor Tishaura Jones, a Democrat, issued an executive order to establish a nine-member volunteer panel to investigate and recommend reparations, following the lead of communities in Illinois, California, and Rhode Island.

Jones observed, “The people closest to the problems are closest to the solution.”

“I look forward to studying this commission’s work to plan a course that will restore the vitality of our city’s minority communities after decades of neglect. We cannot succeed as a city if half of it fails.”

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