One might say that it got drowned in the recent upsurge of attention for the movement, as worldwide protests were organized against racism in, mainly, the form of police violence. This became the main focus, also of the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd's death. That movement was essentially decentralized in character, and therefore uncoordinated, but some centralized aspects, including repatriation proposals became part of it, as said in 2020.
Of course, this is not a new theme: reparations for trans-Atlantic slavery of Africans and their decendants, knowing several national variants. The Rastafari movement in Jamaica proposed it in 2004, having calculated a sum of 129 billion dollars to be paid to African descendants in Jamaica, especially by Britain, with as more specific goals also financing with it the resettlement of 500.000 (Jamaican) Rastafarians in Africa.
This 2004 initiative was a shared initiative by all six Rastafari "houses" (sub-organizations) in Jamaica.
DEBATES AND RECOGNITION
Since then it remained an ongoing debate in Jamaica and the United Kingdom.
Yet not just there. I used to work in a scholarly library, with a large Caribbean collection in university town Leiden,in the Netherlands. Mostly, though not exclusively, focussed on former Dutch colonies in the broader Caribbean region (Suriname, Netherlands Antilles). Less known is that also what is now Guyana was for a period a Dutch colony, later taken over by Britain.
The institute was historically focussed, and was largely aimed at, historian scholars, as well as Caribbeanist (other social science) scholars. Of course, many books in the collection dealt with the history of slavery in the Caribbean (Dutch colonies or not). I worked with these books, having catalogized and described many. I even made summaries of them.
Personally, I learned a lot from all this historical knowledge about slavery and colonialism - naturally -, but I recall also from that period that the institute (KITLV) got involved in public debates about slavery, recognition of the Netherlands' slavery past, and also reparations. The particular institute - for more information, see http://www.kitlv.nl - was seen by many Afro-Surinamese activists and commentators as too White and conservative. Understandable, since it was old, and founded when slavery was actually still going on in former Dutch colony Suriname (1840s).
Historians working at the institute, including those I eventually worked under, claimed they were professional and ethically, just neutral "researchers", without public political stances on the issues they study.
This is hard to ensure, however. Corruption, biased choices,and conflicts of interests, slipped in there too, though maybe not as intensive as in the medical and health sciences, now almost under a pharmaceutical hold.
More relevant for this specific post, I remember from the debates the arguments put forth in favour or against reparations by these scientists and scholars in the Dutch context. As elsewhere the predictable argument: the descendants or directly affected are no more alive, was used as argument against Dutch reparations for slavery.
I recall also how excuses for the Dutch slavery past also became a debate issue, as during my time there, the "slavery monument" in Amsterdam's Oosterpark was unveiled, a ceremony involving speeches, and surrounded by wider media attention. This was in 2002, and on 1 July, the date when slavery was formally abolished in Dutch colonies in 1863 (1 August, 1834/38 in British colonies).
Unfortunately, this whole ceremony was tainted, as for the "official" part only official delegates, including the Queen of the Netherlands, were admitted, while the rest of the audience and public were barred off, including many actual Surinamese and other descendants of slaves). This led to some tensions. Still a nice gesture and monument (by the meanwhile deceased artist Erwin de Vries), but it started off somewhat tense, let's say..
Anyway, I found out in that period that words by (the Netherlands') heads of state, and prime-ministers were chosen carefully for legal reasons. "Excuses" for the Dutch slavery past were never given as such, but rather "recognition" of the "regrettable" period ("spijtbetuiging" in Dutch) was the farthest politicians went. Anything closer to formal excuses would open the legal door for, well, reparations. The same - no "formal" apologies by politicians - applied to other European countries (Britain, France a.o.).
Again, this shows, that the reparations for slavery are "under debate" and problematic in several countries. The 2004 proposal by the Rastafari movement (and others) in Jamaica for the mentioned sum of 129 billion dollars for African-Jamaicans, and resettlement of Jamaican Rastafari-adherents in Africa, also never materialized.
Also in the Netherlands, some proposals have been made, to no avail.
The same applies to colonies of other countries involved in the slave trade and slavery, like France, the already mentioned USA, Portugal,and other countries.
I think it will be of little use to describe here all those separate, international "initiatives by organizations and spokespersons for reparations for slavery" in detail (these can be found elsewhere), but I find it more interesting to - upon acknowledging their existence (and recent reappraisal as part of the internationalized Black Lives Matter) - to reflect upon whether this reparations claim is sensible.
Personally, I consider myself part of the Rastafari movement. I am also in favour of reparations, but after careful deliberation. I once joked with an acquiantance when discussing this theme informally that "I'm a Rastaman so I have to be in favour of those reparations for slavery". That was simplified, and I knew it, but still not totally untrue. A serious joke. Not only in light of the already mentioned 2004 proposal by the Jamaican Rastafari movement, but also seeing the history and origins of the Rastafari movement.
The main prophet of the Rastafari movement, Marcus Mosiah Garvey, founded an organization called the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). Most of his thinking, organizing and activities were aimed at just that: improvement of the position of African and Black people worldwide. Not just culturally and mentally, but including material and political aspects.
The difference with some reparations proponents elsewhere, and especially later, was his focus of liberating the African continent from colonial rule. Naming himself the provisional president of Africa, Garvey even tried during his lifetime to negotiate with European powers on an equal level to take control over parts of Africa, such as those abandoned by the Germans after losing World War I. Respectably ambitious, but as could be predicted, he and his envoys were ignored by European delegates, wanting to keep colonial control over Africa. Former German colonies in Africa went mostly to Britain, France, and Belgium.
This points at some wider problems with this reparations for slavery demand: unequal power structures in this world. The historical trajectory is crucial to consider too. When Britain and France started to abolish slavery in the 1830s and 1840s they already started to colonize most of the African continent. Africans thus remained dependent on Europe on a global scale.
The cynical truth was thus that people with origins in Africa saw since then their original homeland and motherland being taking over by the same Europeans once enslaving them. The ambition and dream of repatriating to the motherland, certainly lived on and was cultivated in the African diaspora in the West - to differing degrees -, and Marcus Garvey worked that out most. The Rastafari movement kept and keeps that vision going, and Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie - another important person for Rastafari-adherents - set some land apart for Rastafari wanting to repatriate to Africa, specifically Shasamane in central Ethiopia, in the 1960s.
African Americans also repatriated over time in part to Liberia and Sierra Leone, taking even the role of elite over indigenous ethnic groups, while also - more haphazardly - a number of Afro-Brazilians and Afro-Cubans (of Yoruba descent) were able to repatriate to countries like Nigeria, though more "blending in".
IN FAVOUR OF REPARATIONS
Arguments in favor of reparations seem in reality quite obvious to me. Slaves could not save money to give on to next generations (unlike free white, European settlers in colonies). This caused a severe and lasting economic disadvantage among Black people in the West, continuing in the present.
European countries and the US without a doubt benefitted strongly from slavery gains. This has been documented enough.
A distinction must be made maybe between the ways it enriched European countries: creating wealthy families as concentrated wealth (Spain, Portugal), or more long-term and effectively "invested" in industry (Britain, Netherlands, France).. In fact the Industrial Revolution in Britain had a worldwide impact and was largely funded by colonial and slave trade and slavery gains of the British in the Caribbean. Birmingham in England was worldwide the first "industrial city" as such, largely financed by colonial and slavery profits. This is not even very known widely, world wide, I think. Trinidadian scholar (and later politician) Eric Eustace Williams studied this history for his 1980 work 'Capitalism and slavery'.
In Spain, only in more industrialized Catalonia a similar industry-stimulating effect took place, as relatively many (wealthy, industrialist) Catalans invested in slavery in the Spanish Caribbean (especially Cuba) as slavery increased in Cuba in the mid-19th c., for a period. Catalonia is still one of the most wealthy and industrialized parts of Spain. The same "blood money" ended up in earlier stages more in mainly luxury spending and palaces in Portugal and Spain by early colonizers that went with Columbus, and probably even as sudden wealth of early English pirates/enslavers as John Hawkins. Eventually, though, it stimulated the wealth and economic prosperity in several European countries.
It is okay to focus on and "shame" certain banks and other companies in Western countries that were once involved in slavery, but the economic effects were much broader for Europe and the US. More and more the actual slave-owners and their families and descendants are also known, and it is even recorded well now how much and which slaves they owned. Some inhabit now -ironically - the same European cities (London, Amsterdam, Paris, Lisbon, Barcelona) as descendants of these very slaves.
The long-term, cross-generational effects of the trans-Atlantic slave trade are thus evident, and the argument that " the slaves are no longer alive" thus invalid.
MONEY AND POWER
Unfortunately, in this world we live in, you need money and power to get things done. Power and money mutually enforce each other. Also, political craftiness and privileged positions play a role. Japan and Germany up to recently are still paying reparations to several (citizens of) European and Asian countries for the damage and deaths during World War II. Germany also paid reparations to Jews, and others affected and (decsendants of those) killed by the Nazi regime.
In light of the interrelation between trans-Atlantic slavery, European colonialism , and European dominance over Africa for so long, I think a global approach to these reparations is needed, more than in national cases of reparations (former national dictatorships or human rights abuses), or even wars between some nations.
The degrading and dehumanization of Africans has been global and worldwide for over 500 years now, pepetrated mainly by Europeans, but also Arabs, and and in the wider Islamic world. This resulted over time in an unequal power relation, and much higher poverty rates of African(-descended) people, and a disadvantage of both Africa as continent and the African Diaspora vis-a-vis Europe. History teaches us that this is no coincidence.
This inequality needs "repairing" both culturally/ mentally, and materially. Garvey's focus on Africa has not become the mainstream of the Black Power movement, time has shown. The Nation of Islam chose to focus on (sepatration from Whites within) the USA, and became over time much more influential than Garveyism, or its offshoot the Rastafari movement. Other movements, including the Black Lives Matter one, are also mostly locally, nationally oriented.
Even the normalized term "Black" for African-descended people shows that. I have mixed feelings about that term as replacement of Black for African, especially as the cultural connection got somewhat ignored in it, due to a lost connection - largely - with the African origins. Furthermore, it simply does not seem terribly intelligent to name a people or supposed culture after something visual and superficial.
Very relevant with all this, is that Africa has moreover never become a superpower (like now China, US, EU, and Russia) the world has to consider as equal and respect, as Marcus Garvey once envisioned and worked for. In the present, certainly not. Instead Black people in the African Diaspora try to integrate for better and worse in White-dominated countries.
I know, the culturally genocidal loss of languages and last names of Africans that came with trans-Atlantic slavery, makes that these Africans are not so much to blame for this, and make an integration and equality aim in "white man countries" to a degree understandable. Unlike Chinese in e.g. California they learn no languages of their motherland at home with their parents, and neither know their original families surnames. Unlike other migrants, even semi-forced ones like contract labourers, the Africans transported to the Americas, after all even lost their family names, and their languages. These African-descended people instead grew up with (partly Africanized variants of) European languages, some (mixed) retentions of African cultures, and formalized European slave names (Johnson, Williams, Condé, De Souza, Ferrer, Ronde, Seedorf, etcetera, etcetera).
This still shows the global power inequality Africa as continent, and its children, continue to suffer in the present.
With this massive, structural global inequality, reparations are therefore needed all the more, but also, and with a sad irony, harder to achieve.