A descendant of enslavers shows the way to repair racial harms

June 8, 2022 Jennie Goforth 0 Comments

When Donna Melcher discovered she is descended from slave owners, she couldn’t get it out of her mind.

Melcher’s ancestors owned slaves in Virginia and Georgia, where she now lives. As she thought about it, she came to see that her upper middle-class lifestyle was made possible in large part by her family’s inherited wealth, which was built on the backs of those they enslaved.

At a time when serious discussions are under way across the country about reparations for slavery, Melcher isn’t waiting for those discussions to bear fruit. She is undertaking her own personal form of reparations. She has donated more than $20,000 to the Historic Triangle chapter of Coming to the Table, a national racial reconciliation group, and to Freedom, Ga., a planned city intended as a safe haven for people of color.

She hopes to inspire other descendants of enslavers to undertake plans of repair for their ancestors’ racial harms.

“What I’m hoping to show is that we need reparative actions not only on a national level but also on a familial level,” Melcher told me. “This can be a step toward the healing of our nation.”

Melcher will be a featured speaker this Saturday, June 11, at a “Journey to Racial Healing” ceremony sponsored by Coming to the Table-Historic Triangle at Freedom Park, site of one of the earliest free black settlements in America. The ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. at the park’s interpretive center.

I’ll also be speaking at the ceremony about my book, “Uncle George and Me,” about my enslaver ancestors, and my journey of personal reparations. I’m donating the profits from sales of the book to a college scholarship fund for descendants of those my ancestors enslaved.

Saturday’s event will also serve as the launch of the Virginia Racial Healing Institute, a new nonprofit being organized by Coming to the Table-Historic Triangle to offer trauma, educational and faith-based racial reconciliation programs.

The ceremony will include lunch. Admission is free, but registration is required. A registration form can be found at this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/journey-to-racial-healing-ceremony-tickets-347493902617.

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