11:11 AM PDT, June 27, 2021
Linda Johnson-Thomas recently learned that her grandfather’s 10-year tenure on the Virginia Theological Seminary campus was a forced labor, which resulted in a reparations payment from the school.
Through the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade and past the Reconstruction Era — 1823 and 1951 — the seminary was involved in the forced labor of Black Americans.
Hundreds of Black people were forced into labor-intensive jobs like farming and dishwashing with little to no compensation.
According to CNN, Johnson Thomas had no idea that the work her grandfather did on the campus for years was forced labor until recently. “All I knew was that he grew up on the seminary,” Johnson-Thomas told the outlet.
The seminary announced in 2019 that it had $1.7 million allocated for paying reparations. These funds were for direct descendants of those who’d been enslaved and forced to work on the campus.
Payments of $2,100 began this year, with Johnson-Thomas and her two sisters being the first recipients, and thus far 15 others have been compensated.
“Seventy years later, a wrong made right,” Johnson-Thomas told CNN. “A quality education has been a struggle for African Americans in what many considered the land of the free. I’m hoping that it’s the beginning of more empowerment and diversity that will continue for generations.”