Back in America

Back in America header image 1
February 13, 2020  

Princeton University Janitor & Mailman Tommy Parker Talks of Reparations and Civil Rights

February 13, 2020


Today I am speaking with someone who wants to be a voice for the voiceless.

Someone passionate about civil justice. I am talking with Thomas Parker or Tommy, as he likes to be called.
Tommy is 67. He was hired as a janitor in 1979 by Princeton University and joined the Print and Mail Services of the University in 1983.

In 2011 The University recognized your social engagement with the Martin Luther King Day Journey Award, for Lifetime Service for your role as an advocate and adviser to co-workers and your dedication to community service.
Indeed you work hard both at the university and in the community where you lead numerous organizations to help the underprivileged.

In the early nineties, you organized, with the Labor Relations Director Fred Clarke the first Labor & Management Committee on campus to help with day to day processes of contract enforcement and mutual considerations for bargaining unit protection under the collective bargaining agreement. Today, you are the president of Princeton’s Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 175.

Freedom Riders

In this interview, Tommy talks about the Freedom Riders who were civil rights activists who rode interstate buses into the segregated southern US in 1961 and after to challenge the non-enforcement of the Supreme Court decisions which ruled that segregated public buses were unconstitutional. The Southern states had ignored the rulings and the federal government did nothing to enforce them. The first Freedom Ride left Washington, D.C. on May 4, 1961.

Reparations for Slavery

I ask Tommy about what he thinks of Reparations to the African American and he mentions the 40 acres and a mule, which is part of Special Field Orders No. 15, a post-Civil War promise proclaimed by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on January 16, 1865, to allot family units, including freed people, a plot of land no larger than 40 acres (16 ha). However, according to Wikipedia, Freed people widely expected to legally claim 40 acres of land (a quarter-quarter section) and a mule after the end of the war. Some freedmen took advantage of the order and took initiatives to acquire land plots along a strip of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida coasts. However, Lincoln's successor, President Andrew Johnson explicitly reversed and annulled proclamations such as Special Field Orders No. 15 and the Freedmen's Bureau Act.


Thomas Parker books suggestions are:

Man Child in the Promised Land
by Claude Brown

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
by Maya Angelou