- The Washington Times - Friday, March 14, 2003

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., March 14 (UPI) — Insurance companies doing business with the state would have to report whether they sold policies to slaveholders under a proposed law making its way through the Illinois Legislature.

Chicago became the first major U.S. city to approve similar legislation last November — an ordinance that followed up the City Council's vote two years ago calling for Congress to hold hearings on reparations for descendants of African-American slaves.

California passed a slavery-era insurance records law in May and companies found more than 400 names of slaves and 200 names of slaveholders.

A measure to require insurance companies to search their records and the archives of predecessor companies for information on slave-era policies and report the findings to the state Department of Insurance was approved by the House Insurance Committee this week.

The policies were written on slaves considered valuable property of slaveholders who paid premiums and collected the payouts. A well-trained slave could sell for thousands of dollars before the Civil War ended legal slavery in the United States.

"They are the ones with that information," state Rep. Monique Davis told Friday's Chicago Tribune. "They insured the property. They are the ones that paid Mr. Jones if one of his slaves became incapacitated or died or ran away."

Researchers and reparations activists say any insurance company records as well as surviving U.S. Census data are among the few resources available to African-Americans researching their genealogy. Slaves often were listed by first name among lists of household and farm property.

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