From the 2009 News Archive
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Students Play Essential Role in Slavery Disclosure Law

Insurance companies wishing to do business in Maryland must disclose any policies they or their predecessor firms provided to slave owners until 1865, under a law Gov. Martin O'Malley '88 signed Tuesday. Sen. Lisa A. Gladden '91 credited students in Professor Sherrilyn Ifill's Reparations, Reconciliation and Restorative Justice seminar, saying their assistance was essential to its passage.

Students in Professor Ifill's class, including Michelle McLeod '10, Bryan Saxton '09 and Amanda Yellon '09, provided Senate and House committees with a detailed analysis of slavery disclosure laws throughout the country, and testified on the bill during each of the last two legislative sessions.

Maryland joins California, Illinois and Iowa, which make similar requirements of insurance companies doing business in those states, according to Professor Ifill.

"The application of these laws have resulted in comprehensive reports from insurance companies providing detailed information about the extent of insurance company involvement in insuring slaves and/or slave ships and participating in other financial transactions involving slaves," said Professor Ifill.

"Many of these records include the names and ages of slaves and other detailed information about slaves for whom companies provided policies. The policies themselves provide a window into the realities of slave life -- for example, some policy riders provided that there would be no recovery for slaves who were beaten to death or who committed suicide."

Records generated by insurance companies in compliance with the new law will be housed at the Thurgood Marshall Law Library.


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500 W. Baltimore Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-1786 PHONE: (410) 706-7214 FAX: (410) 706-4045 / TDD: (410) 706-7714

Copyright © 2014, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. All Rights Reserved