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A federal lawsuit seeking unspecified reparations for the 35 million descendants of African slaves was filed Tuesday against the Aetna insurance company, the FleetBoston financial services group and railroad giant CSX. The lawsuit also claims that as many as 1,000 unidentified corporations may have profited from slavery and sometimes helped it continue in the United States between 1619 and 1865. “The practice of slavery constituted an immoral and inhumane depravation of Africans’ life, liberty, African citizenship rights, cultural heritage and it further deprived them of the fruits of their own labor,” the lawsuit said. In a statement, Aetna, based in Hartford, Conn., said: “We do not believe a court would permit a lawsuit over events which — however regrettable — occurred hundreds of years ago. These issues in no way reflect Aetna today.” CSX said the suit had no merit and should be dismissed. “Slavery was a tragic chapter in our nation’s history,” the company said in a statement. “It is a history shared by every American, and its impacts cannot be attributed to any single company or industry.” Officials at FleetBoston did not immediately return calls seeking comment. Lawyer Roger S. Wareham said the lawsuit sought damages that would be put into a fund to improve the health, education and housing opportunities for blacks. “This is not about individuals receiving checks in their mailbox,” he said. The plaintiff in the lawsuit was identified as Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, who said that she went to law school with the goal of eventually suing for damages as a result of slavery. She said as many as 60 companies had cooperated with her five years of research and provided documents showing how they had assisted the institution of slavery. Lawyer Ed Fagan said that a series of Holocaust lawsuits settled for $8 billion had blazed the legal trail for the slavery action. Copyright 2002 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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