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Professor to discuss merits of reparations

African-American Studies to sponsor discussion

African-American Studies is sponsoring a forum Wednesday to address the controversial topic of reparations for descendants of slaves in the United States.

UNM Law professor Alfred Mathewson will speak from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at African-American Studies in Mesa Vista Hall.

Shirley Alexander, African-American Studies program coordinator, said she wanted Mathewson to bring his legal perspective on the issue.

Reparations for slavery have been a hot topic since the end of the Civil War when Gen. William Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 in 1865, which was intended to provide each black family freed from slavery 40 acres and a mule.

The issue was brought up last year when city councils for major cities such as Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and Dallas voted to endorse federal hearings on reparations. In Washington D.C., bills proposing that Congress apologize for slavery and that the president appoint a commission to consider reparations have been introduced as well.

Alexander said many minorities and non-minorities have opinions and feedback on slave reparations, and the forum will be a place to discuss them.

"It's an issue everyone's been wanting to talk about," she said. "There's some who are for it and some against it and some who don't really understand it."

Alexander said Mathewson seems to be knowledgeable on the subject and has helped students with projects or class assignments on slave reparations. She said he was happy to have the opportunity to talk about the issue.

"He's going to cover every aspect of every angle he can," she said. "I suspect students will have all kinds of questions on every aspect of every angle."

The debate has been stirred up nationally by author David Horowitz's advertisement against slave reparations, which has been printed in a handful of college newspapers nationwide. The advertisement lists 10 reasons why reparations are separatist, racist and should not be indulged.

Horowitz wrote the book "The Death of the Civil Rights Movement." He is the president of the Center for the Study of Popular Culture and regularly contributes to the center's Front Page Magazine, an online magazine at

The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America is one of the groups advocating slave reparations. The group's Web site,, describes itself as "a coalition of organizations and individuals committed to the economic, cultural, intellectual, political, social and spiritual empowerment of black people in the U.S.A."

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The Web site also states that the coalition is the "descendants, and thus the heirs, of Africans kidnapped, transported and enslaved in the Americas," thereby the United States government owes the descendants reparations.

Alexander said African-American Studies is inviting everyone to come and be a part of the forum and hear how the UNM community feels about slave reparations. For more information, contact Alexander at 277-4883.

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