Monday, April 13, 2009
Ray Jenkins, a longtime Detroit resident, will be remembered for his work advocating slavery reparations for African-Americans from the federal government, his family said.
Mr. Jenkins believed reparations were the debt the country owed blacks for the enslavement of their ancestors.
During the late 1950s, Mr. Jenkins began speaking publicly about his cause of getting reparations for African-Americans. At the time, it was a very unpopular notion.
"I used to go with him to meetings. People used to ridicule him to no end ... black and white," said his son, Ricardo Jenkins.
"They thought it was the most ridiculous thing. It wasn't until (the U.S. government paid Japanese-Americans for their internment during World War II) that their moods changed. They saw it could happen. He then became a hero."
Mr. Jenkins, known as "Reparations Ray," or the father of the reparations movement in the city's black community, died Friday, April 10, 2009 of complications of a blood infection in Providence Hospital in Southfield. He was 88.
Born in Memphis, Tenn., Mr. Jenkins came to Detroit in 1942 for job opportunities. He also was veteran who served in the Philippines during World War II. He received an honorable discharge from the military, said his son, Ricardo Jenkins.
After arriving in Detroit, Mr. Jenkins worked a series of odd jobs before eventually settling into the real estate business as a salesman and then a real estate broker.
In 1958, Mr. Jenkins opened his own real estate business, Ray Jenkins Realty. The office was at West McNichols and Wisconsin on the city's northwest side.
In a July 1994 article from The Detroit News, Mr. Jenkins spoke about spending $50,000 of his own money and putting in countless hours in his efforts to push the federal government for a payoff for blacks.
Ricardo Jenkins said his father never thought reparations should be a blank check to African-Americans.
He said his father wanted the U.S. government to repay blacks for slavery through educational trusts and home ownership programs.
"He thought every black American who wanted to attend college should be able to attend for free," said Jenkins.
Besides his son Ricardo, survivors include his wife, Geraldine; a daughter, Lajuana; two grandchildren; and a nephew.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Friday.