Modal close

Hi there,

You turn to Democracy Now! for ad-free daily news you can trust. Maybe you come for our daily headlines, or our in-depth stories that expose corporate and government abuses of power. You need news that isn't being paid for by campaigns or corporations. We produce our daily news hour at a fraction of the budget of a commercial news operation—all without ads, government funding or corporate sponsorship. How? This model of news depends on your support. Right now, every new monthly sustaining donation to Democracy Now! will be tripled by a generous supporter. That means if you can give just $4 a month, Democracy Now! gets $12 today.  Pretty amazing right? If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, start your monthly contribution today. Thanks so much. -Amy Goodman

Non-commercial news needs your support.

We rely on contributions from you, our viewers and listeners to do our work. If you visit us daily or weekly or even just once a month, now is a great time to make your monthly contribution.

Please do your part today.


Corporations Profiting From Slavery

Default content image
Media Options


This past month, California Gov. Gray Davis signed the Slaveholder Insurance Policy law, which requires all insurers whose businesses date to the 19th Century to review their archives and make public the names of insured slaves and the slaveholders through the state’s insurance commissioner. Under a typical $11-a-year policy in the 1800s, a slave owner received $500 when a slave died. This new legislation makes California the first state to require insurance companies that sold slave policies in the 1800s to open their archives to the public.

Prompted by the apology issued in March by Aetna Inc. over its role in selling slave owners policies on enslaved blacks, the laws are the latest in a growing movement to redress the country’s legacy of slavery and oppression. In May, Chicago joined Los Angeles, Detroit, Washington, and a half-dozen other cities in passing resolutions urging the federal government to study the reparations issue.

The California law however, stops short of permitting descendants of the slaves to sue the companies, making it only a partway successful attempt by reparations supporters who increasingly are turning their attention toward insurers, banks and other businesses that may have profited from slavery.

Reparations activists say that corporate archives hide the details of how many enslaved black people lived, worked and died, and they are calling for separations from these corporations.


  • “Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation”. Live recordings and dramatic readings of interviews with former slaves. A Smithsonian Production.


  • Randall Robinson, served as the President of the TransAfrica foundation. He is an internationally respected advocate for human rights and democracy. He is one of the foremost advocates for reparations in the country. This is a speech he gave at the Black Issues Conference in New Jersey in September 2000.

Related Story

Video squareWeb ExclusiveSep 20, 2018The Business of Punishment: How Forced Prison Labor Has Generated Revenue Since the Colonial Era
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Non-commercial news needs your support

We rely on contributions from our viewers and listeners to do our work.
Please do your part today.
Make a donation
Up arrowTop