An original press release from General Holdridge’s 1960 presidential campaign, outlining his plan for reparation grants of $5,000 for each descendent of the African American slaves freed by the Emancipation Proclamation. Dated March 25, 1960, the statement reads in part, “At the time the freedmen came to believe that Lincoln would give each of them ’40 Acres and Mule’ to permit them to establish economic independence. No compensation of any kind was ever given them for their long years of servitude, and their children have continued ever since as the ‘hewers of wood and the drawers of water’ of the White Man – the last to be hired, the first to be hired, and reduced to a new form of economic slavery with the doors to equal economic opportunity closed to them. Such ‘GRANTS’ of reparations to the descendants of the slaves is obligatory as an act of justice to the Negroes, and to free the White Man from his burden of guilt for the centuries of crimes perpetrated against the Negroes. They, as we, are American born citizens, entitled to justice from our people and our government.” It continues with an appeal to African American Democrats for support of his inclusion on the primary ballot, and closes by acknowledging prominent African American newspaper publisher and civil rights activist Charlotta Bass, who served on General Holdridge’s campaign committee.
The concept of American slavery reparations is thought to date to the colonial era, when it was customary for masters to grant “freedom dues” to indentured servants who had completed their fixed term of service. Well before the Emancipation Proclamation, abolitionists presented suggestions on what could or should be done to compensate the enslaved workers after their liberation. In 1865, after the Confederate States of America were defeated in the American Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Orders, No. 15 to both “assure the harmony of action in the area of operations” and to solve problems caused by the masses of freed slaves, a temporary plan granting each freed family forty acres of tillable land in the sea islands and around Charleston, South Carolina for the exclusive use of black people who had been enslaved. The army also had a number of unneeded mules which were given to freed slaves. Around 40,000 freed slaves were settled on 400,000 acres in George and South Carolina. However, President Andrew Johnson (no relation) reversed the order after Lincoln was assassinated, the land was returned to its previous owners, and the freed slaves were forced to leave. In 1867, Thaddeus Stevens sponsored a bill for the redistribution of land to African Americans, but it did not pass.
Reconstruction came to an end in 1877 without the issue of reparations having been addressed. Thereafter, a deliberate movement of segregation and oppression arose in southern states, with Jim Crow laws reinforcing the existing inequality that slavery had produced. The debate over reparations reemerged during the Civil Rights Era and as a key tenet in The Black Manifesto (1969). In 1989, Congressman John Conyers introduced H.R. 3745, which aimed to create the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act (a similar bill was introduced by Senator Corey Booker in 2019). More recently, the call for reparations was a prominent theme during the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries. It was further amplified amidst the Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic, which both kill African Americans disproportionately.
Photomechanically reproduced on one side of an 8 ½” x 11” sheet of light brown paper, which is lightly folded into thirds for mailing. Accompanied by a small collection of correspondence and campaign material, including 18 typed letters signed by General Holdridge to John Moore of Pasadena, California and 25 assorted leaflets and newsletters. All the material dates between 1954 and 1961.
Herbert Charles Holdridge (1892-1974) was an American military officer, who is perhaps best known for being the only United States Army General to retire during World War II, and for having several times sought presidential nominations on fringe party tickets. In 1957, he founded the Minute Men for the Constitution, which published two newsletters, News Notes and Reveille, which espoused conservative views and anti-Catholic propaganda. Later, he established the Constitutional Provisional Government of the United States, which claimed the Hopi Indians were still a sovereign nation as they had never signed a peace treaty with the United States. Holdridge apparently appointed himself to represent the Hopi in this matter, without actually attracting any members of that tribe to his organization. Item #73202