Honoring Rev. Lowery: APS Scholars Join Debate on Reparations for Slavery

“The U.S. federal government should provide direct compensation to all African-Americans who descended from slaves as reparations for slavery.”

That was the debate resolution at the district-wide 17th Rev. Dr. Joseph E. Lowery Lecture Series on Civic Engagement, held Tuesday, Oct. 8, at Daniel McLaughlin Therrell High School in honor of the 98-year-old civil rights living legend.

Though Rev. Lowery was unable to attend, his dynamic presence was forever felt.

“The Atlanta Board of Education developed and sponsored this lecture so our students and community could leverage the wisdom and experience of Dr. Lowery and his colleagues from the struggles of the Civil Rights movement for the benefit and betterment of our future generations,” said Atlanta Board of Education Vice Chair Eshe’ P. Collins (District 6) in her remarks. “To the students here today, I hope you fully understand and appreciate that you are in the presence of history, witnessing a type of civic engagement as Dr. Lowery himself engaged. Dr. Lowery, in his life and work, demonstrated the courage and bravery to step up and make a real and necessary difference in the world. And he spoke openly, honestly and bravely about important issues of his day just as you will today.”

Hundreds of high school students from across the District were enthralled by the debate as two-person teams from Georgia State University, University of West Georgia and Morehouse College went toe-to-toe. Georgia State University argued in favor of direct compensation, the University of West Georgia argued in favor in indirect compensation, and Morehouse College argued against reparations as compensation for slavery.

A true highlight of the program, APS students were allotted time to put debate teams in the hot seat, directing comments and posing questions to all three teams.

Blanche Blackwell Payne, director of operations for the Joseph and Evelyn Lowery Institute for Social Justice and Human Rights, provided remarks on behalf of the institute. A product of Atlanta Public Schools, Payne is an alumna of Northside High School.

APS Superintendent Dr. Meria J. Carstarphen also provided remarks.

“As a daughter of the Deep South and a native of Selma, I am proud that Atlanta Public Schools created this program to honor Dr. Lowery, who was among the leaders who did the critical work in the Civil Rights era to bring systematic change in our country,” Carstarphen said in her remarks. “I am a product of Dr. Lowery’s work. Board Vice Chair Eshe’ Collins, an Atlanta native, is a product of Dr. Lowery’s work. And every single one of you, who are all also sons and daughters of the Deep South, are products of the work of Dr. Lowery.”

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