Mock suit designed to enlighten people

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 28, 2003

The trial may not be real, but the subject matter is of grave historical significance.

Friday, March 7, a hypothetical class action lawsuit will take place in the Dallas County Courthouse seeking $2.5 billion in reparations for African Americans under Jim Crow laws, a system of ethnic discrimination prevalent from about 1870 to 1950.

Jeffrey Robinson, an attorney with Chestnut, Sanders and Sanders in Selma, said the purpose of the mock suit was to enlighten people in the community about reparations and to get some idea of their feelings about the compensation.

Reparations &045;&045; meaning &uot;to repair,&uot; were used to compensate in some way those people who had been affected by more than 400 years of slavery, and then as free citizens disgraced and humiliated

well into the modern era.

Jury members for the mock trial will be selected from those in attendance, Robinson said. More than one jury could be formed if enough people show interest.

Television personality, judge Joe Brown, will oversee the two-hour mock trial, after which a jury will deliberate before coming back with a verdict.

The Jim Crow era created anxiety amongst African Americans for a variety of reasons that have been well chronicled over the years. Examples included segregated water fountains and bus seating for blacks and whites, separate entrances to public and private buildings and segregated schools.

The trial will feature hypothetical witnesses, one by the name of John Black Negro, who graduated in the top of his class from high school, but was rejected from The University of Alabama because he was black.

Another mock witness &045;&045; Lily Whitehead, a white woman of Irish descent &045;&045; will admit to not understanding reparations. Whitehead raised her three children by herself and always taught her children to work hard. But her daughters had advantages where others did not, and that will be brought forth during the trial, Robinson said.

Alston Fitts, a local historian, will take the stand for the defense. He’ll describe the slave trade and the complexities of the reparation system.

The mock trial will begin at 6:30 p.m., Friday, March 7.