NEW YORK (CNN) — Attorneys for a former law student, who discovered evidence linking U.S. corporations to the slave trade, filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday that could seek billions of dollars in reparations for the descendants of slaves in America.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Brooklyn names FleetBoston Financial, the railroad firm CSX and the Aetna insurance company, and promises to name up to 100 additional corporations at a later date.
It accuses the companies of conspiracy, human rights violations, unjust enrichment from their corporate predecessors’ roles in the slave trade and conversion of the value of the slaves’ labor into their profits.
“These are corporations that benefited from stealing people, from stealing labor, from forced breeding, from torture, from committing numerous horrendous acts, and there’s no reason why they should be able to hold onto assets they acquired through such horrendous acts,” said Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, the main plaintiff in the lawsuit.
Farmer-Paellmann said she learned of Aetna’s role in insuring slaves in legal classes, and then asked Aetna for old policies documenting the practice, which Aetna provided to her.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 35 million African-Americans. It seeks financial payments for the value of “stolen” labor and unjust enrichment and calls for the companies to give up “illicit profits.” The plaintiffs are also seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
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