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Reparations for slavery is the application of the concept of reparations to victims of slavery and/or their descendants. There are concepts for reparations in legal philosophy and reparations in transitional justice. In the US, reparations for slavery have been both given by legal ruling in court and/or given voluntarily (without court rulings) by individuals and institutions. The first recorded case of reparations for slavery in the United States was to former slave
Belinda Royall Belinda Sutton (born 1713 in West Africa ), also known as Belinda Royall, was a Ghana, Ghanaian-born woman who was Slavery, enslaved by the Royall family in Massachusetts. She was abandoned by her master, Isac Royall, when he fled to Nova Scotia at ...
in 1783, in the form of a pension, and since then reparations continue to be proposed and/or given in a variety of forms. The 1865
Special Field Orders No. 15 Special Field Orders, No. 15 (series 1865) were military orders issued during the American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by Names of the American Civil War, other names) was a civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865 ...
("
Forty acres and a mule Forty acres and a mule is part of Special Field Orders No. 15, a wartime order proclaimed by Union General William Tecumseh Sherman on January 16, 1865, during the American Civil War, to allot land to some freed families, in plots of land no lar ...
") is the most well known attempt to help newly freed slaves integrate into society and accumulate wealth. However, President Andrew Johnson reversed this order, giving the land back to its former Confederate owners. Reparations have been a recurring idea in the
politics of the United States The United States is a constitutional federal republic, in which the president of the United States, president (the head of state and head of government), United States Congress, Congress, and United States federal courts, judiciary share Separa ...
, most recently in the
2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries The 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries and caucuses were a series of electoral contests organized by the Democratic PartyDemocratic Party most often refers to: *Democratic Party (United States) Democratic Party and similar terms ma ...
. The call for reparations has intensified in 2020, amidst the protests against police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic, which both kill Black Americans disproportionately. Calls for reparations for racism and discrimination in the US are often made by black communities and authors alongside calls for reparations for slavery. The idea of reparations remains highly controversial, due to questions of how they would be given, how much would be given, who would pay them, and who would receive them. Forms of reparations which have been proposed or given in the United States by city, county, state, and national governments or private institutions include: individual monetary payments, settlements, scholarships, waiving of fees, and systemic initiatives to offset injustices, land-based compensation related to independence, apologies and acknowledgements of the injustices, token measures (such as naming a building after someone), and the removal of monuments and streets named to slave owners and defenders of slavery. Since further injustices and discrimination have continued since slavery was outlawed in the US, some black communities and civil rights organizations have called for reparations for those injustices as well as for reparations directly related to slavery. Some suggest that the U.S. prison system, starting with the
convict lease system Convict leasing was a system of forced penal labor in the United States, penal labor which was historically practiced in the Southern United States and overwhelmingly involved African Americans, African-American men. Recently, a form of the p ...
and continuing through the present-day government-owned corporation
Federal Prison Industries Federal Prison Industries, Inc. (FPI), doing business as A trade name, trading name, or business name is a pseudonym A pseudonym () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) or alias () is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes ...
(UNICOR), is a modern form of legal slavery that still primarily and disproportionately affects black populations and other minorities via the and what has been criticized as a
school-to-prison pipeline In the United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, sta ...
.


U.S. historical context


In colonial times

The debate on reparations reaches as far back as the eighteenth century.
Quakers Quakers are people who belong to a historically Protestant Christian Protestantism is a form of that originated with the 16th-century , a movement against what its followers perceived to be in the . Protestants originating in the Ref ...

Quakers
, who were some of , almost unanimously insisted that freed slaves were entitled to compensation from their former owners. If an owner repented of his sin of owning a chattel slave, he needs to atone for it by making amends. Quakers cited the book of
Deuteronomy The Book of Deuteronomy (literally "second law" from Greek ''deuteros'' + ''nomos'') is the fifth book of the Jewish , where it is called ''Devarim'' ( he, דְּבָרִים), "the words f Moses F, or f, is the sixth Letter (alphabet), let ...
, in which owners were exhorted to share their goods with former slaves. During the
Revolutionary WarRevolutionary War(s) may refer to: * American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), the armed conflict between Great Britain and 13 of its North American colonies, which had declared themselves the independent United States of America * French Revolution ...
,
Warner Mifflin Warner Mifflin (August 21, 1745 – October 16, 1798) was an American abolitionist and an early advocate of Reparations for slavery in the United States, reparations for slavery. Born and raised in Virginia, Mifflin established himself as a planter ...
advocated for
restitution The law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...

restitution
for as early as 1778, in the form of cash payments, land, and shared crop arrangements.
Gary B. Nash Gary Baring Nash (born July 27, 1933) is an American historian ( 484– 425 BC) was a Greek historian who lived in the 5th century BC and one of the earliest historians whose work survives. A historian is a person who studies and writes about th ...
writes that, "he may fairly be called the father of American reparationism".


Before the Civil War

Well before slavery was abolished nationally in 1865,
abolitionists Abolitionism, or the abolitionist movement, was the movement to end slavery Slavery and enslavement are both the state and the condition of being a slave, who is someone forbidden to quit their service for an enslaver, and who is t ...
presented suggestions on what could or should be done to compensate the enslaved workers after their liberation. Early in 1859, in a book dedicated to "Old Hero" John Brown,
James Redpath James Redpath (August 24, 1833 in Berwick upon Tweed, England – February 10, 1891, in New York, New York) was an American journalist and abolitionism in the United States, anti-slavery activist. Life In 1848 or 1849, Redpath and his family emig ...

James Redpath
declared himself a "reparationist", and implies that in his view, the lands of the Confederacy should be given to the ex-slaves. He also quotes an earlier poem, by William North, that refers to "the course of reparation". Later that year, after Brown's execution, Redpath reported in the first biography of Brown that he "was not merely an emancipationist, but a reparationist. He believed, not only that the crime of slavery should be abolished, but that reparation should be made for the wrongs that had been done to the slave. What he believed, he practiced. On this occasion issouri raid, 1859 after telling the slaves that they were free, he asked them how much their services had been worth, and—having been answered—proceeded to take property to the amount thus due to the negroes." Calls for permanent confiscation and redistribution of plantation lands had already been made by Representatives George W. Julian and
Thaddeus Stevens Thaddeus Stevens (April 4, 1792August 11, 1868) was a member of the United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the United States Senate, Senate ...

Thaddeus Stevens
, both of the
Radical Republican The Radical Republicans were a faction of American politicians within the Republican Party of the United States The Republican Party, also referred to as the GOP ("Grand Old Party"), is one of the two major Major is a military ran ...
faction.


The Reconstruction period

The arguments surrounding reparations are based on the formal discussion about many different reparations, and actual land reparations received by African Americans which were later taken away. In 1865, after the
Confederate States of America The Confederate States of America (CSA), commonly referred to as the Confederate States or simply the Confederacy, was an unrecognized herrenvolk republic A republic () is a form of government A government is the system ...

Confederate States of America
were defeated in the
American Civil War The American Civil War (also known by other names Other most often refers to: * Other (philosophy), a concept in psychology and philosophy Other or The Other may also refer to: Books * The Other (Tryon novel), ''The Other'' (Tryon nove ...
,
General William Tecumseh Sherman William Tecumseh Sherman ( ; February 8, 1820February 14, 1891) was an American soldier, businessman, educator, and author. He served as a general A general officer is an officer of high rank in the armies, and in some nations' air fo ...

General William Tecumseh Sherman
issued Special Field Orders, No. 15 to both "assure the harmony of action in the area of operations" and to solve problems caused by the masses of freed slaves, a temporary plan granting each freed family forty acres of tillable land in the sea islands and around Charleston, South Carolina for the exclusive use of black people who had been enslaved. The army also had a number of unneeded
mule A mule is the of a male (jack) and a female (). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of s. Of the two between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a , which is the offspring of a female donkey () a ...

mule
s which were given to freed slaves. Around 40,000 freed slaves were settled on 400,000 acres (1,600 km2) in Georgia and South Carolina. However, President
Andrew Johnson Andrew Johnson (December 29, 1808 July 31, 1875) was the 17th president of the United States The president of the United States (POTUS) is the and of the . The president directs the of the and is the of the . The power of the pre ...

Andrew Johnson
reversed the order after was assassinated, the land was returned to its previous owners, and the blacks were forced to leave. In 1867,
Thaddeus Stevens Thaddeus Stevens (April 4, 1792August 11, 1868) was a member of the United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the United States Senate, Senate ...

Thaddeus Stevens
sponsored a bill for the redistribution of land to African Americans, but it did not pass.
Reconstruction Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a late 20th century Soviet Union ...
came to an end in 1877 without the issue of reparations having been addressed. Thereafter, a deliberate movement of
segregationSegregation may refer to: Separation of people * Geographical segregation, rates of two or more populations which are not homogenous throughout a defined space *Educational segegration * Housing segregation * Racial segregation, separation of huma ...
and oppression arose in southern states.
Jim Crow laws Jim Crow laws were state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspape ...
passed in some southeastern states to reinforce the existing inequality that slavery had produced. In addition white extremist organizations such as the
Ku Klux Klan The Ku Klux Klan (), commonly shortened to the KKK or the Klan, is an American white supremacist White supremacy or white supremacism is the belief that white people White is a racial classification and skin color specifier, gene ...
engaged in a massive campaign of terrorism throughout the Southeast in order to keep African Americans in their prescribed social place. For decades this assumed inequality and injustice was ruled on in court decisions and debated in public discourse. In one anomalous case, a former slave named Henrietta Wood successfully sued for compensation after having been kidnapped from the
free state #REDIRECT Free state The Free State ( af, Vrystaat; st, Freistata; xh, iFreyistata; tn, Foreistata; zu, iFuleyisitata; before 1995, the Orange Free State) is a Provinces of South Africa, province of South Africa. Its capital is Bloemfontein, ...
of
Ohio Ohio () is a state State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * ''State Magazine'', a monthly magazine published by the U.S. Department of State * The State (newspaper), ''The State'' (newspaper), a daily newspaper in Co ...

Ohio
and sold into slavery in
Mississippi Mississippi () is a U.S. state, state in the Southeastern United States, Southeastern region of the United States, bordered to the north by Tennessee; to the east by Alabama; to the south by the Gulf of Mexico; to the southwest by Louisiana; a ...
. After the American Civil War, she was freed and returned to
Cincinnati Cincinnati ( ) is a city in the U.S. state In the , a state is a , of which there are currently 50. Bound together in a , each state holds al jurisdiction over a separate and defined geographic territory where it shares its with the ...

Cincinnati
, where she won her case in
federal court Federal court may refer to: United States * Federal judiciary of the United States ** United States district court, a particular federal court Elsewhere * Federal Court of Australia * Federal courts of Brazil * Federal Court (Canada) * Federal Cou ...
in 1878, receiving $2,500 in damages. Though the verdict was a national news story, it did not prompt any trend toward additional similar cases.


2020

The topic became a prominent theme during the
2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries The 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries and caucuses were a series of electoral contests organized by the Democratic PartyDemocratic Party most often refers to: *Democratic Party (United States) Democratic Party and similar terms ma ...
as concerns surrounding race were heightened due to current events. It was further amplified due to the African American people dying prematurely and disproportionately due to the
COVID-19 Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease A contagious disease is a disease A disease is a particular abnormal condition that negatively affects the structure A structure is an arrangement and organization o ...
pandemic. Ongoing systemic racism and police brutality also sparked outrage across the country, notably the killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old
African-American African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a grouping of people A people is any plurality of person A person (plural people or persons) is a being t ...
emergency medical technician An emergency medical technician (EMT), also known as an ambulance technician, is a health professional A health professional (or healthcare professional) may provide treatment and advice based on formal training and experience. The field inc ...
, fatally shot by
Louisville Metro Police Department The Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) began operations on January 6, 2003, as part of the creation of the consolidated city-county government in Louisville, Kentucky, United States. It was formed by the merger of the Jefferson County Pol ...
in her home; the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, shot while out for a run by three white men in Georgia; and the
murder of George Floyd On May 25, 2020, George Floyd, a 46-year-old African Americans, black man, was murdered near the intersection of East 38th Street and Chicago Avenue in the Powderhorn Park neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota, by Derek Chauvin, a 44-y ...
, a Black American killed during an arrest after allegedly passing a
counterfeit To counterfeit means to imitate something authentic, with the intent to steal, destroy, or replace the original, for use in illegal transactions, or otherwise to deceive individuals into believing that the fake is of equal or greater value than ...
$20 bill by
Minneapolis Minneapolis () is a city in the U.S. state of Minnesota. With a population of 429,954 as of 2020 United States census, 2020, it is the most populous city in the state and the 46th most populous in the nation. The county seat of Hennepin County, ...

Minneapolis
police that sparked the nationwide
George Floyd protests The George Floyd protests are ongoing protests against police brutality Police brutality is the excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcement File:CBP female officers going aboard a ship.jpg, upU.S. Customs and Border Prote ...
. Candidates that endorsed the idea included: *
Andrew Yang Andrew M. Yang (born January 13, 1975) is an American entrepreneur, politician, political commentator, philanthropist, and author. Originally a lawyer, Yang began working in startups and venture capital financing, early stage growth companie ...

Andrew Yang
said that he supports HR40, the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, sponsored by Rep.
Sheila Jackson Lee Sheila Jackson Lee (born January 12, 1950) is an American lawyer and politician who is the U.S. representative for , having served since 1995. The district includes most of central Houston. She is a member of the Democratic Party (United States ...

Sheila Jackson Lee
, while speaking on the Karen Hunter show. *
Marianne Williamson Marianne Deborah Williamson (born July 8, 1952) is an American author, spiritual leader, and political activist. She has written 13 books, including four ''New York Times'' The New York Times Best Seller list, number one bestsellers in the "Adv ...
detailed a plan for reparations in an interview for Ebony Magazine. * Senators
Elizabeth Warren Elizabeth Ann Warren (née __NOTOC__ A birth name is the name of the person given upon their birth. The term may be applied to the surname In some cultures, a surname, family name, or last name is the portion of one's personal name ...
and
Cory Booker Cory Anthony Booker (born April 27, 1969) is an American politician, attorney, and author who has served as the junior Junior or Juniors may refer to: Sport * Junior athletics, age-based athletic training and completion category * Instan ...

Cory Booker
have both indicated some level of support for reparations, according to
NPR National Public Radio (NPR) is an American privately and publicly funded non-profit media organization headquartered in Washington, D.C. ) , image_skyline = , image_caption = Clockwise from top left: the Washi ...

NPR
. *
Tulsi Gabbard Tulsi Gabbard (; born April 12, 1981) is an American politician and United States Army Reserve officer who served as the U.S. representative for Hawaii's 2nd congressional district from 2013 to 2021. Elected in 2012, she was the first Hindu me ...

Tulsi Gabbard
is a cosponsor of H.R.40, the only piece of legislation in Congress to study and develop reparations proposals and
Bernie Sanders Bernard Sanders (born September8, 1941) is an American politician who has served as the Seniority in the United States Senate, junior United States Senate, United States senator from Vermont since 2007 and as U.S. Representative for the sta ...

Bernie Sanders
is a co-sponsor for the Senate version of the bill.
Kamala Harris Kamala Devi Harris ( ; born October 20, 1964) is an American politician and attorney who is the 49th and current vice president of the United States The vice president of the United States (VPOTUS) is the second-highest officer in the o ...

Kamala Harris
declared in April 2019 she supports reparations.
Beto O'Rourke Robert Francis "Beto" O'Rourke (; born September 26, 1972) is an American politician who represented Texas's 16th congressional district in the United States House of Representatives from 2013 to 2019. O'Rourke is most notable for his 2018 Unite ...
is "open to considering some form of reparations," according to ''
U.S. News & World Report ''U.S. News & World Report'' is an American media company that publishes news, opinion, consumer advice, rankings, and analysis. Founded as a news magazine in 1933, ''U.S. News'' transitioned to primarily web-based publishing in 2010, although it ...
''.
Tom Steyer Thomas Fahr Steyer (born June 27, 1957) is an American businessman, hedge fund A hedge fund is a pooled investment fund Image:Financial info.jpg, The values and performance of collective funds are listed in newspapers. An investment fund is ...

Tom Steyer
in the 2020 Democratic Primaries Debate in South Carolina voiced his support for reparations.


Proposals for reparations


United States government

Some proposals have called for direct payments from the U.S. government. Various estimates have been given if such payments were to be made. ''
Harper's Magazine ''Harper's Magazine'' is a monthly magazine of literature, politics, culture, finance, and the arts. Launched in New York City New York, often called New York City to distinguish it from , or NYC for short, is the in the United States. W ...
'' estimated that the total of reparations due was about "$97 trillion, based on 222,505,049 hours of forced labor between 1619 and 1865, regardless the United States wasn't a recognized independent country until after the Revolutionary War in 1787, compounded at 6% interest through 1993". Should all or part of this amount be paid to the descendants of slaves in the United States, the current U.S. government would only pay a fraction of that cost, since it has been in existence only since 1789. The Rev. M.J. Divine, better known as
Father Divine Father Divine ( c. 1876September 10, 1965), also known as Reverend M. J. Divine, was an African-American African Americans (also referred to as Black Americans or Afro-Americans) are an ethnic group An ethnic group or ethnicity is a gr ...

Father Divine
, was one of the earliest leaders to argue clearly for "retroactive compensation", and the message was spread via International Peace Mission publications. On July 28, 1951, Father Divine issued a "peace stamp" bearing the text: "Peace! All nations and peoples who have suppressed and oppressed the under-privileged, they will be obliged to pay the African slaves and their descendants for all uncompensated servitude and for all unjust compensation, whereby they have been unjustly deprived of compensation on the account of previous condition of servitude and the present condition of servitude. This is to be accomplished in the defense of all other under-privileged subjects and must be paid retroactive up-to-date". At the first National Reparations Convention in Chicago in 2001, a proposal by Howshua Amariel, a Chicago social activist, would require the federal government to make reparations to proven descendants of slaves. In addition, Amariel stated "For those blacks who wish to remain in America, they should receive reparations in the form of free education, free medical, free legal and free financial aid for 50 years with no taxes levied," and "For those desiring to leave America, every black person would receive a million dollars or more, backed by gold, in reparation." At the convention Amariel's proposal received approval from the 100 or so participants. Nevertheless, the question of who would receive such payments, who should pay them and in what amount, has remained highly controversial, since the
United States Census The United States Census (plural censuses or census) is a census A census is the procedure of systematically enumerating, and acquiring and recording information about the members of a given Statistical population, population. This term is used ...
does not track descent from slaves or slave owners and relies on self-reported racial categories. On July 30, 2008, the
United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the United States Senate, Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national Bicameralism, bicameral legislature of the United S ...
passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws. but made no mention of reparations. Nine states have officially apologized for their involvement in the enslavement of Africans. Those states are: * Alabama – 04-25-07 * Connecticut * Delaware – 02-11-16 * Florida – 2008 * Maryland – 2007 * New Jersey – 2008 * North Carolina – 2007 * Tennessee * Virginia – 2007 In April 2010,
Harvard Harvard University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly t ...

Harvard
professor
Henry Louis Gates Henry Louis "Skip" Gates Jr. (born September 16, 1950) is an American literary critic Literary criticism (or literary studies) is the study, evaluation Evaluation is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or inter ...
in a ''
New York Times ''The New York Times'' is an American daily newspaper A newspaper is a periodical Periodical literature (also called a periodical publication or simply a periodical) is a category of Serial (publishing), serial published, publicatio ...
'' editorial advised reparations activists to consider the role that African governments played in the slave trade in regard to who should shoulder the cost of reparations.


Private institutions

Private institutions and corporations were also involved in slavery. On March 8, 2000,
Reuters Reuters (, ) is an international news organisation owned by Thomson Reuters. It employs around 2,500 journalists and 600 photojournalists in about 200 locations worldwide. Reuters is one of the largest news agencies in the world. The agency w ...
News Service reported that Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a law school graduate, initiated a one-woman campaign making a historic demand for
restitution The law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by ...

restitution
and apologies from modern companies that played a direct role in enslaving Africans.
Aetna Aetna Inc. () is an American managed health care The term managed care or managed healthcare is used in the United States to describe a group of activities intended to reduce the cost of providing for-profit health care and providing Health in ...
Inc. was her first target because of their practice of writing life insurance policies on the lives of enslaved Africans with slave owners as the beneficiaries. In response to Farmer-Paellmann's demand, Aetna Inc. issued a public apology, and the "corporate restitution movement" was born. By 2002, nine lawsuits were filed around the country coordinated by Farmer-Paellmann and the Restitution Study Group—a New York non-profit. The litigation included 20 plaintiffs, demanding restitution from 20 companies from the banking, insurance, textile, railroad, and tobacco industries. The cases were consolidated under 28 U.S.C. 1407 to
multidistrict litigation In United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a ...
in the
United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (in case citations, N.D. Ill.) is the federal United States District Court, trial-level court with jurisdiction over the northern counties of Illinois. Appeals from the Nor ...
. The district court dismissed the lawsuits ''with'' prejudice, and the claimants appealed to the
United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit (in case citation Case citation is a system used by legal professionals to identify past court case A legal case is in a general sense a dispute between opposing parties which may b ...
. On December 13, 2006, that court, in an opinion written by Judge
Richard Posner Richard Allen Posner (; born January 11, 1939) is an American jurist and law and economics scholar who served as a United States federal judge, federal appellate judge on the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, U.S. Court of A ...
, modified the district court's judgment to be a dismissal ''without'' prejudice, affirmed the majority of the district court's judgment, and reversed the portion of the district court's judgment dismissing the plaintiffs'
consumer protection Consumer protection is the practice of safeguarding buyers of goods and services, and the public, against unfair practices in the marketplace fa:بازار A market, or marketplace, is a location where people regularly gather for the pu ...
claims, remanding the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. Thus, the plaintiffs may bring the lawsuit again, but must clear considerable procedural and substantive hurdles first:
If one or more of the defendants violated a state law by transporting slaves in 1850, and the plaintiffs can establish standing to sue, prove the violation despite its antiquity, establish that the law was intended to provide a remedy (either directly or by providing the basis for a common law action for conspiracy, conversion, or restitution) to lawfully enslaved persons or their descendants, identify their ancestors, quantify damages incurred, and persuade the court to toll the statute of limitations, there would be no further obstacle to the grant of relief.
In October 2000, California passed the Slavery Era Disclosure Law requiring insurance companies doing business there to report on their role in slavery. The disclosure legislation, introduced by Senator
Tom Hayden Thomas Emmet Hayden (December 11, 1939October 23, 2016) was an American social and political activist A political movement is a collective attempt by a group of people to change government policy Public policy is a course of action created ...

Tom Hayden
, is the prototype for similar laws passed in 12 states around the United States. The
NAACP The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is a civil rights Civil and political rights are a class of rights Rights are law, legal, social, or ethics, ethical principles of Liberty, freedom or entitlement ...
has called for more of such legislation at local and corporate levels. It quotes Dennis C. Hayes,
CEO A chief executive officer (CEO), chief administrator officer, or just chief executive (CE), is one of a number of corporate executives A corporation is an organization—usually a group of people or a company A company, abbreviated as c ...

CEO
of the NAACP, as saying, "Absolutely, we will be pursuing reparations from companies that have historical ties to slavery and engaging all parties to come to the table."
Brown University Brown University is a private Private or privates may refer to: Music * "In Private "In Private" was the third single in a row to be a charting success for United Kingdom, British singer Dusty Springfield, after an absence of nearly two de ...

Brown University
, whose namesake family was involved in the slave trade, has also established a committee to explore the issue of reparations. In February 2007, Brown University announced a set of responses to its Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice. While in 1995 the
Southern Baptist Convention The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) is a Christian denomination A Christian denomination is a distinct Religion, religious body within Christianity that comprises all Church (congregation), church congregations of the same kind, identifia ...
apologized for the "sins" of racism, including slavery. In December 2005, a
boycott A boycott is an act of nonviolent Nonviolence is the personal practice of not causing harm to one's self and others under every condition. It may come from the belief that hurting people, animals and/or the environment is unnecessary to achiev ...

boycott
was called by a coalition of reparations groups under the sponsorship of the Restitution Study Group. The boycott targets the student loan products of banks deemed complicit in slavery—particularly those identified in the Farmer-Paellmann litigation. As part of the boycott, students are asked to choose from other banks to finance their student loans. Pro-reparations groups such as The National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America advocate for compensation to be in the form of community rehabilitation and not payments to individual descendants.


Black Lives Matter

Many groups under the
Black Lives Matter Black Lives Matter (BLM) is a decentralized Decentralization or decentralisation is the process by which the activities of an organization, particularly those regarding planning and decision making, are distributed or delegated away from ...

Black Lives Matter
organization have laid out a list of demands, some of which include: reparations, for what they say are past and continuing harms to African-Americans, an end to the death penalty, legislation to acknowledge the effects of slavery, a move to defund the police, as well as investments in education initiatives, mental health services and jobs programs. These calls for reparations have been bolstered amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the high rates of police brutality against Blacks.


Arguments for reparations


Accumulated wealth

Housing discrimination Housing discrimination refers to patterns of discrimination Discrimination is the act of making unjustified distinctions between people based on the groups, classes, or other categories to which they belong or are perceived to belong. People ...
played a big role in creating the racial wealth gap that exists today. After the Great Migration of southern blacks to Chicago in the 1940s, redlining was used to keep former slaves segregated from whites and to prevent black families from getting a mortgage. Thus they were forced to buy houses on contracts from real estate speculators, which were a scam. Not only did this cause thousands of Black Americans to lose their homes and their money, it also created what is known today as
ghetto A ghetto, often ''the'' ghetto, is a part of a city in which members of a minority group A minority group, by its original definition, refers to a group of people whose practices, race, religion, ethnicity, or other characteristics are fewer i ...

ghetto
s and prevented Blacks from accumulating wealth. Today, the average white family has roughly 10 times the amount of wealth as the average black family, and white college graduates have over seven times more wealth than Black college graduates. The wealth of the United States was greatly enhanced by the exploitation of African American slave labor: some argue it is the bedrock for the U.S. economy and capitalism. However, former slaves and their descendants are among the poorest demographic in America. According to this view, reparations would be valuable primarily as a way of correcting modern economic imbalances. In 2008 the
American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is a 501(c) organization, non-profit organization in the United States that advances secular humanism, a philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms the ability and resp ...
published an article which argued that if emancipated slaves had been allowed to possess and retain the profits of their labor, their descendants might now control a much larger share of American social and monetary wealth.Ananda S. Osel
U.S. Apology for Slavery – Apparently Not Front Page News
''The Humanist'', Nov/Dec 2008 (
American Humanist Association The American Humanist Association (AHA) is a 501(c) organization, non-profit organization in the United States that advances secular humanism, a philosophy of life that, without theism or other supernatural beliefs, affirms the ability and resp ...
) ISN:7336164802
Not only did the
freedmen A freedman or freedwoman is a formerly enslaved person who has been released from slavery, usually by legal means. Historically, enslaved people were freed by manumission (granted freedom by their captor-owners), abolitionism, emancipation (gr ...

freedmen
not receive a share of these profits, but they were stripped of the small amounts of compensation paid to some of them during
Reconstruction Reconstruction may refer to: Politics, history, and sociology *Reconstruction (law), the transfer of a company's (or several companies') business to a new company *''Perestroika'' (Russian for "reconstruction"), a late 20th century Soviet Union ...
. Therefore, many scholars and activists call for reparations to eliminate "racial disparities in wealth, income, education, health, sentencing and incarceration, political participation, and subsequent opportunities to engage in American political and social life".


Health care

In 2019, VICE magazine published an article that argued racial health disparities, from slavery through Jim Crow until today, have cost Black Americans a significant amount of money in health care expenses and lost wages, and should be paid back. Ray and Perry state in a Brookings article that the lack of a social safety net and the wealth gap are particularly highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. They explain that “disparities in access to health care along with inequities in economic policies combine,” making this inequality a life or death situation for black Americans.


Current discrimination

Many argue that giving reparations for slavery is too complicated, but there is a strong basis for them on the past and current discrimination that blacks in America face.
Ta-Nehisi Coates Ta-Nehisi Paul Coates ( ; born September 30, 1975) is an American author and journalist. Coates gained a wide readership during his time as national correspondent at ''The Atlantic ''The Atlantic'' is an American magazine and multi-platform ...

Ta-Nehisi Coates
explains it in " The Case for Reparations" article in The Atlantic as "ninety years of
Jim Crow Jim or JIM may refer to: * Jim, a diminutive form of the given name James James is a common English language surname and given name: * James (name), the typically masculine first name James * James (surname), various people with the last name Jame ...
, sixty years of
separate but equal Separate but equal was a legal doctrine in United States constitutional law United States constitutional law is the body of law governing the interpretation and implementation of the United States Constitution The Constitution of the Un ...
, and thirty-five years of racist housing policy". The legacy of these policies have kept African Americans from opportunities to build wealth, while slavery "enriched white slave owners and their descendants". Today, the district of North Lawndale in Chicago, where
redlining In the United States, redlining is a discriminatory practice in which services (financial Finance is the study of financial institutions, financial markets and how they operate within the financial system. It is concerned with the creati ...
was the strongest, is the poorest neighborhood in the city with an unemployment rate of 18.6% and 42% of residents living below the poverty line. The discriminatory practices of 1940 through 1970 still reverberate today, as the average White family has roughly ten times the amount of wealth as the average Black family. As Bittker claims in his book The Case for Black Reparations, "as slavery faded into the background, it was succeeded by a caste system embodying white supremacy". Many argue that while reparations may be a first step towards amending the harms caused by slavery, the systemic racism that exists in many institutions will not be fixed as easily. Malcom X stated: "If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there's no progress. If you pull it all the way out that's not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made."


Precedents

Advocates have used other examples of reparations to argue that victims of institutional slavery should be similarly compensated. In several cases the federal government has formally apologized to or compensated minority groups for past actions: * Under the
Civil Liberties Act of 1988 The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (, title I, August 10, 1988, , et seq.) is a United States federal law that granted reparation (legal), reparations to Japanese Americans who had been Internment of Japanese Americans, interned by the United State ...
, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. government apologized for Japanese American internment during World War II and provided reparations of $20,000 to each survivor, to compensate for loss of property and liberty during that period. No compensation was given to the descendants of affected individuals though. * The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act transferred land, federal money, and a portion of oil revenues to native Alaskans. * The Apology Resolution of 1993 apologized for the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii, but gave no compensation. U.S. state governments have made reparations in some specific circumstances: * Virginia established a compensation fund for victims of involuntary sterilization in 2015. Other countries have also opted to pay reparations for past grievances, such as: * Reparations for the Holocaust, including the Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany and various programs under the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.


Arguments against reparations


Statute of limitations

Most state and federal laws under which parties can sue for damages have a statute of limitations which sets a deadline for filing; these have all long since passed, which prevents courts from granting relief under existing laws. This has been used effectively in several suits, including ''In re African American Slave Descendants'', which dismissed a high-profile suit against a number of businesses with ties to slavery.


Technical complications

The technical side of reparations is very complex, and could be a reason why they have not yet been implemented. Some argue against the idea of putting a monetary value on the traumas that Black Americans have faced, dubbing it "transactionalism". On the other hand, some dismiss the case for reparations entirely due to practical concerns, such as who would receive these financial payments, why should the current generation pay for wrongs for which they are not responsible, and how much should be paid. The estimates of the monetary value of stolen slave labor and subsequent discrimination vary “from an outrageously low $3.2 million to $4.7 billion,” and to as much as $12 trillion. This also raises the question of who is responsible for paying. Generally, three actors are agreed upon: federal and state governments, who supported and protected the institution of slavery; private companies that benefited from it; and “rich families that owe a good portion of their wealth to slavery”. Some claim that closing the wealth gap involves paying descendants of slaves “individual cash payments in the amount that will close the Black-white racial wealth divide”. Another suggestion is for reparations to "come in the form of wealth-building opportunities that address racial disparities in education, housing, and business ownership". For example, in the city of Asheville, North Carolina, reparations have been implemented in the form of "investments in areas where Black residents face disparities". However, the complications that surround this are significant, and others argue that putting the money into communities is not efficient, due to people moving and gentrification. In his book, Bittker lays out some of the practical and constitutional problems that would likely arise in an attempt to execute a program of reparations to Blacks. Would it be the same payment to every person? Would they have to prove ancestry to an African slave, or would it be any black person who was subject to racism? There are no real answers to these questions, as this is an unprecedented case. Other cases of reparations, such as to the Jewish people who survived the Holocaust or the Native Americans in the United States, are very different in the way that it is much easier to identify the group who should receive them, and the reparations were paid more quickly than in the case of reparations for slavery.


Additional arguments and opinions

Steven Greenhut, the western region director for the R Street Institute, has suggested that reparations would make racism worse. Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, while acknowledging that slavery was an "original sin" of the United States, opposes providing reparations because "none of us currently living are responsible." One publication against reparations is David Horowitz, ''Uncivil Wars: The Controversy Over Reparations for Slavery'' (2002). Other works that discuss problems with reparations include John Torpey's ''Making Whole What Has Been Smashed: On Reparations Politics'' (2006), Alfred Brophy's ''Reparations Pro and Con'' (2006), and Nahshon Perez's ''Freedom from Past Injustices'' (Edinburgh University Press, 2012). Reparations in the U.S. have never gained widespread public support. Often in these conversations, the White reaction is to claim that this is a form of unjustifiable "reverse racism", or that demands for reparations are an example of the "Black refusal to move beyond the memory of slavery". A 2020 poll from The Washington Post showed that "63% of Americans don't think the U.S. should pay reparations to the descendants of slaves". Notably, 82% of Black Americans support reparations, while 75% of White Americans do not. Some arguments also highlight the complications behind reparations, such as "not all Black Americans are descendants of slaves" or that the people alive today are not responsible for the harms of slavery. Others still argue that reparations will do nothing in the face of racism, and that structural and policy changes would be more effective. In the midst of America's current racial reckoning in 2020, these tensions are particularly exposed.


Reparations and COVID-19

The call for reparations has amplified due to the COVID-19 pandemic, coronavirus pandemic, which has exposed the underbelly of American inequality in many ways, with people of color disproportionately likely to be laid off, to struggle financially, and to die from the virus. For example, 40% of black-owned businesses have closed permanently since March due to the pandemic, compared to 17% of white-owned businesses during the same period. This relates back to the fact that white families have roughly ten times the wealth of black families. This limits black-owned businesses' access to credit and loans, and they do not have the safety net in times of crises that many white-owned businesses do. In addition, African Americans continue to get infected and die from COVID-19 at rates more than 1.5 times their share of the population. In August 2020, the CDC released data showing that Blacks, Latinos, and American Indians are experiencing hospitalizations at rates 4.5 to 5.5 times higher than non-Hispanic whites, and that African Americans are dying at 2.4 times the white rate.


Legislation and other actions


Federal government

On July 30, 2008, the
United States House of Representatives The United States House of Representatives is the lower house of the United States Congress, with the United States Senate, Senate being the upper house. Together they compose the national Bicameralism, bicameral legislature of the United S ...
passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws. The Senate has never passed such a resolution. During the summer of 2020, after widespread protests of police brutality and racial injustices, Congress is looking to pass legislation that would establish a commission to study the impacts of slavery and make recommendations for reparations.


States

* California – Adopted legislation requiring insurance companies to determine whether they have records going back to when slavery existed in this country and, if so, to provide information on insurance policies held by slaveholders on slaves to the state's insurance department. * Illinois – Adopted legislation requiring insurance companies to determine whether they have records going back to when slavery existed in this country and, if so, to provide information on insurance policies held by slaveholders on slaves to the state's insurance department. * Maryland – Adopted legislation requiring insurance companies to determine whether they have records going back to when slavery existed in this country and, if so, to provide information on insurance policies held by slaveholders on slaves to the state's insurance department. * Iowa: Adopted legislation asking the insurance commissioner to request if insurance companies they have records going back to when slavery existed in this country and, if so, to provide information on insurance policies held by slaveholders on slaves to the state's insurance department. * Alabama – Apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans on April 25, 2007. * Connecticut – In 2009 apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans. * Delaware – Apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans on February 11, 2016. * Florida – In 2008, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America. * Maryland – In 2007, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America. * New Jersey – In 2007, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America. * North Carolina – In 2007, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America. * Tennessee – In 2007, the Tennessee House of Representatives voted in unanimous support on a resolution stating that it "regrets" its involvement in the enslavement of Africans. The House had specifically removed any "apology" language from the resolution. * Virginia – Apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans on February 26, 2007.


Counties

*
Buncombe County, North Carolina: On June 16, 2020 in a 7–0 vote, Buncombe County Commissioners decided to remove several Confederate monuments including the Vance Monument which is named after North Carolina Governor Zeb Vance, a slave owner who used convict labor to build the railroad to Western North Carolina. Significant community involvement led to the decision. Leading up to the vote, the board received 549 supporting messages and 19 opposing.


Cities

* Chicago, Chicago, Illinois: "In 2015, Chicago enacted a reparations ordinance covering hundreds of African Americans tortured by police from the 1970s to the 1990s. The law calls for $5.5 million in financial compensation, as well as hundreds of thousands more for a public memorial, and a range of assistance related to health, education and emotional well-being." * Evanston, Illinois: "The City Council of Evanston, Illinois, voted to allocate the first $10 million in tax revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana (which became legal in the state on January 1, 2020) to fund reparations initiatives that address the gaps in wealth and opportunity of black residents." *Asheville, North Carolina: The city council approved reparations on a 7–0 vote on July 14, 2020. "[B]udgetary and programmatic priorities may include but not be limited to increasing minority home ownership and access to other affordable housing, increasing minority business ownership and career opportunities, strategies to grow equity and generational wealth, closing the gaps in health care, education, employment and pay, neighborhood safety and fairness within criminal justice," the resolution reads. The resolution establishes the Community Reparations Commission which will make make concrete recommendations for programs and resources allocations to ultimately carry out the reparations. The Asheville City Council also voted unanimously on June 9, 2020 to remove two confederate monuments as a result of demands made by a group called "Black Asheville Demands" and the work of the Racial Justice Coalition with led the push for the effort. The City Council meeting had so much community engagement public comment was extended for an extra hour beyond the normal meeting time.


Organizations and institutions

* Georgetown University: "In 2016 [the university agreed] to give admissions preference to descendants of the 272 slaves[,] formally apologized for its role in slavery [and] [renamed] two buildings on its campus to acknowledge the lives of enslaved people". In April, 2019 students at Georgetown University voted to increase their tuition by $27.20 to benefit the descendants of the 272 slaves sold by the Jesuits who ran the school in 1838. The student-led referendum was non-binding. Later that year, after further pressure and follow up from the Georgetown University Student Association the university eventually moved forward with a similar proposal without the students' covering the cost with a tuition increase. * Princeton Theological Seminary: In 2019 the Seminary announced a $27 million commitment for various initiatives to recognize how it benefited from black slavery. This is the largest monetary commitment by an educational institution. *Virginia Theological Seminary: Set aside $1.7 million to pay reparations to descendants of African Americans who were enslaved to work on their campus, first distributed in 2021 *Wachovia: Apologized for its connection to slavery in 2005. *JP Morgan Chase: Apologized for its connection to slavery in 2005.


See also

*American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) * Reparations for slavery * H.R. 40 - Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act * History of slavery in the United States *
Civil Liberties Act of 1988 The Civil Liberties Act of 1988 (, title I, August 10, 1988, , et seq.) is a United States federal law that granted reparation (legal), reparations to Japanese Americans who had been Internment of Japanese Americans, interned by the United State ...
(Reparations to Japanese Americans interned by the United States government during World War II) * Reparations Agreement between Israel and West Germany (1952) * History of slavery * History of slavery in Asia * History of slavery in the Muslim world * Legal remedy * Liberia * Reparation (legal) * Reparations (transitional justice), Reparations * Reparations (website) * Republic of New Afrika * Slavery in contemporary Africa * Slavery reparation scam


References


Further reading

* * Brophy, Alfred L. ''Reparations: Pro & Con''. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. * Brooks, Roy L. ''Atonement and Forgiveness: A New Model for Black Reparations''. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004. * * Dottin, Paul Anthony. "The end of race as we know it: Slavery, segregation, and the African American quest for redress." Ph.D. Thesis, Florida Atlantic University, 2002. * Flaherty, Peter, and John Carlisle. ''The Case against Slave Reparations''. Falls Church, Va: National Legal and Policy Center, 2004. * Hakim, Ida. ''The Debtors: Whites Respond to the Call for Black Reparations''. Red Oak, GA: CURE, 2005. * Henry, Charles P. ''Long Overdue: The Politics of Racial Reparations''. New York: New York University Press, 2007. * * Martin, Michael T., and Marilyn Yaquinto. ''Redress for Historical Injustices in the United States: On Reparations for Slavery, Jim Crow, and Their Legacies''. Durham: Duke University Press, 2007. * Miller, Jon, and Rahul Kumar. ''Reparations: Interdisciplinary Inquiries''. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 2007. P * * * Torpey, John. ''Making Whole What Has Been Smashed: On Reparations Politics''. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2006. * University of Kansas. ''Symposium: Law, Reparations & Racial Disparities''. Lawrence: University of Kansas, Kansas Law Review, 2009. * Walters, Ronald W. ''African Americans and Movements for Reparations: Past, Present, and Future''. Dedicated to the Memory and Scholarly Legacy of Dr. Ronald W. Walters. Washington, DC: Association for the Study of African American Life and History, 2012. * Winbush, Raymond A. ''Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations''. New York: Amistad/HarperCollins, 2003.


Video

*


External links


Reparations for Slavery: a Reader
– a collection of essays on the topic of reparations for slavery.


Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act
– A bill introduced by Congressman John Conyers, Jr. every year since 1989, which has not yet passed.
Making Amends Debate Continues Over Reparations for U.S. Slavery
– NPR, August 27, 2001.
BANISHED
site for Independent Lens on Public Broadcasting Service, PBS * {{African American topics Race-related controversies in the United States Political controversies in the United States African-American-related controversies Reparations for slavery Reparations for slavery, United States