Skip to main content
Rev. JoAnn Watson

Rev. JoAnn Watson

The National African American Reparations Commission (NAARC) expresses its sincere condolences to the family and friends of Rev. Dr. JoAnn Watson who died suddenly on July 10 in Detroit, MI. She was 72.

An original commissioner of NAARC, Sis. Watson was an iconic leader of the reparations movement in the USA. She served for a decade on the board of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America and was chair of Detroit’s N’COBRA chapter for seven years. Recently she was appointed a member of the newly-created Detroit Reparations Task Force.

JoAnn Watson leaves a stellar legacy as a freedom fighter and a servant leader in the Black Liberation struggle. She believed fervently in the righteous cause of reparatory justice for the historical crimes of slavery and was a close confidant of the late Detroit Congressman John Conyers who authored and introduced the landmark federal reparations bill known as HR40 over three decades ago.

Born and raised in Detroit, she devoted her life to public service and to nurturing the faithful. In 2019, Rev. Watson received a ‘Spirit of Detroit Award’ that honored her as “Supreme Mother of Our Beloved Community”.

Watson was the first woman to serve as the executive director of the Detroit NAACP. She also served as a Detroit City Council member for 10 years until 2013, and as a former delegate to the 2001 United Nations World Conference on Racism, which laid the blueprint for fighting for equality, freedom, and reparations.

For many years she hosted the popular radio and television show Wake Up Detroit and she also was a professor at Wayne County Community College and an associate pastor of Detroit’s WestSide Unity Church.

“The reparations movement in the USA and around the world has lost a giant,” said Dr. Ron Daniels, convenor of NAARC. “Her vision and courage will live on as an example for future generations to admire and emulate. May she rest in peace and power.”


IBW21 (The Institute of the Black World 21st Century) is committed to enhancing the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.