Prepared by James Forman with the assistance of the League of Black Revolutionary Workers and adopted by the National Black Economic Development Conference (NBEDC) in Detroit, Michigan, on April 26, 1969, the Black Manifesto called on white churches and synagogues to pay $500 million (about $15 per black person) in reparations for black enslavement and continuing oppression. The money would fund projects to benefit blacks, including the establishment of a southern land bank, four television networks, and a black university. The manifesto indicted white religious organizations for complicity in American racism and called on blacks to bring whatever pressure was necessary to force churches and synagogues to comply.
On May 4, 1969, the date set by the manifesto to start disrupting religious institutions, Forman took the pulpit in the middle of services at New York City's Riverside Church and demanded reparations. Riverside Church was selected because of its connections with the Rockefeller family, viewed by the manifesto's authors as classic white oppressors. Some predominantly white churches expressed some sympathy with the aims of the manifesto but primarily increased aid to existing or new programs of their own rather than providing money for the reparations fund. Forman's call did raise about half a million dollars, about $200,000 of which came from Riverside Church alone. Many prominent black organizations, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the National Baptist Convention, distanced themselves from the call for reparations and urged that money be given to them for related purposes instead.
By mid-May 1969 both the FBI and the Justice Department had begun investigations into the NBEDC. The money raised by the manifesto was used by the Interreligious Foundation for Community Projects for a number of projects, including the funding of Black Star Publications, a revolutionary black publishing house in Detroit, connected to James Forman.
Forman, James. The Making of Black Revolutionaries. Washington, D.C.: Open Hand, 1985.
Haines, Herbert H. Black Radicals and the Civil Rights Mainstream, 1954–1970. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1988.
jeanne theoharis (1996)