American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) is a lineage-focused political movement that seeks to advocate for people who are descendants of the enslaved Africans in the United States from its colonial period onward. ADOS have made reparations for the system of slavery in the United States a key tenet of their platform. They want colleges, employers and the federal government to prioritize African Americans who descended from American slaves, and they argue that affirmative action policies originally designed to help the descendants of slavery in America have largely been used to benefit other groups. The American descendants of slavery, they say, should have their own racial category on census forms and college applications, and not be lumped in with others with similar skin color but different historical experiences. One of its founders, Yvette Carnell, was a board member of “Progressives for Immigration Reform”, described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-immigration group.

#ADOS was started by the brain trust of Howard graduate and host of the Breaking Brown political show, Yvette Carnell, and UCLA alumnus and attorney, Antonio Moore who hosts the weekly radio show Tonetalks. ADOS—which stands for American Descendants of Slavery—seeks to reclaim/restore the critical national character of the African American identity and experience, one grounded in our group’s unique lineage, and which is central to our continuing struggle for social and economic justice in the United States.

In his book, American Slavery, American Freedom, the historian Edmund Morgan concludes that slavery was not a contradiction of American freedom, but rather that slavery was the institution that made white freedom possible. In other words, slavery was not a mistake so much as a precondition for a societal hierarchy which requires descendants of slaves to remain a bottom caste and be made to suffer the necessary failures of a brutal economic system. This was followed by a Jim Crow-era that saw #ADOS become actual contagions that lead to a destruction of wealth; through federally-supported, discriminatory practices like redlining, black presence literally made wealth disappear in communities, all while American whites—and more recently, immigrants— enjoy advantage in a land of apparently equal opportunity that was in fact manufactured on the back of black failure.

According to Yale historian David Blight, “by 1860, there were more millionaires (slaveholders all) living in the lower Mississippi Valley than anywhere else in the United States. In the same year, the nearly 4 million American slaves were worth some $3.5 billion, making them the largest single financial asset in the entire U.S. economy, worth more than all manufacturing and railroads combined.”

Codified by government and exploited by private actors, the creation of an #ADOS underclass served as the financial engine of a nation that never recognized the debt it owed to the group as a result. As such, the #ADOS movement is underpinned by the demand for reparative justice in making the group whole, and as a necessary component in fulfilling the promise of opportunity from which, by design, ADOS have been historically excluded and denied.