Formation + Background
Athens Reparations Action (ARA) is a 501(c)(3) formed to educate Athens-Clarke County and to serve as a financial instrument by which direct reparations can be paid to first descendants of Black homeowners harmed by urban renewal.
Athens Reparations Action emerged through conversations among people of faith about how to address racial injustice in Athens as part of Christian discipleship. Members of Oconee Street United Methodist Church (OSUMC) had been engaged in racial justice work through its Missions Committee and the Racial Justice Task Force since 2016, working with community organizations. OSUMC hired Hattie Thomas Whitehead as a consultant and consulted with African American leaders in Athens during the fall of 2020 and throughout 2021. OSUMC partnered with Ebenezer Baptist Church West in a book study of Let the Oppressed Go Free which again led to discussions of reparations. Through these processes, members had the opportunity to get to know communities in Athens that had been harmed by Urban Renewal and other policies, and expand their membership beyond OSUMC members. These conversations in the Athens community prompted the formation of ARA in 2021, with the mission to promote public awareness and recognition of the financial impact of urban renewal on Black homeowners in Athens and to work toward redress of the harm done.
ARA has no paid staff and no operating costs. All money contributed will go into direct payments to individuals in the ACC African American community harmed by urban renewal policies that disenfranchised them as homeowners. ARA’s board is led by a majority of people of color.
Alys Willman & Chaplain Cole Knapper - Co-chairs
Eric McClanahan - Treasurer
JoBeth Allen - Secretary
Patricia Moody - Board Member
Brittany Siewe - Board Member
Trisha Hall - Board Member
While Linnentown is certainly not the only community displaced by urban renewal and other policies, it is the best-documented case. Court documents were used to make the case to ACC Mayor and Commission of the need for recognition and redress, culminating in the unanimous approval of the Linnentown Resolution for Recognition and Redress in 2021. The resolution is the first of its kind in Georgia, and one of only a handful in the United States.
ARA members have agreed to focus on Linnentown initially, with the idea of expanding to other Athens communities in the future.
How will ARA deliver reparations?
We are developing a process in close consultation with the Linnentown Project, with the following steps:
We have identified Linnentown first descendants with a documented case for redress, using public court documents
We are in ongoing conversations with each first descendant who has indicated interest in participating in the process for receiving reparations. We recognize that this reparation process could cause family conflict, and will offer to provide a mediator free of cost if requested.
We are conducting a community fundraising campaign, urging people and institutions to donate to ARA
When the fundraising campaign closes in June 2024, ARA will divide the amount raised by the number of eligible families, and write checks to each person.