Jump to content

Reparations for slavery in the United States

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reparations for slavery is the application of the concept of reparations to victims of slavery 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.[1][2]

The first recorded case of reparations for slavery in the United States was to former slave Belinda Royall in 1783, in the form of a pension, and since then reparations continue to be proposed. To the present day, no federal reparations bills have been passed.[3] The 1865 Special Field Orders No. 15 ("Forty acres and a mule") is the most well known attempt to help newly freed slaves integrate into society and accumulate wealth.[4] 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, most recently in the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries.[5] The call for reparations intensified in 2020, amidst the protests against police brutality and the COVID-19 pandemic, which both kill Black Americans disproportionately.[6] Calls for reparations for racism and discrimination in the US are often made by black communities and authors alongside calls for reparations for slavery.[7][8][9][10] 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.[11][12]

Forms of reparations which have been proposed 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),[2] and the removal of monuments and streets named to slave owners and defenders of slavery.[8][13]

Since further injustices and discrimination have continued since slavery was outlawed in the US,[14][15][16][17][18] some black communities and civil rights organizations have called for reparations for those injustices as well as for reparations directly related to slavery.[12][8] Some suggest that the U.S. prison system, starting with the convict lease system and continuing through the present-day government-owned corporation Federal Prison Industries (UNICOR), is a modern form of legal slavery that still primarily and disproportionately affects black populations and other minorities via the war on drugs and what has been criticized as a school-to-prison pipeline.[19]

U.S. historical context


In colonial times


The debate on reparations reaches as far back as the eighteenth century. Quakers, who were some of the first abolitionists in the United States, 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, in which owners were exhorted to share their goods with former slaves.[20]: 60 

During the Revolutionary War, Warner Mifflin advocated for restitution for freed ex-slaves as early as 1778, in the form of cash payments, land, and shared crop arrangements.[21][22][23] Gary B. Nash writes that, "he may fairly be called the father of American reparationism".[24]

Before the Civil War


Well before slavery was abolished nationally in 1865, abolitionists 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 declared himself a "reparationist", and implies that in his view, the lands of the Confederacy should be given to the ex-slaves.[25]: vi  He also quotes an earlier poem, by William North, that refers to "the course of reparation".[25]: 188 

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 [Missouri 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."[26]: 220 

Calls for permanent confiscation and redistribution of plantation lands had already been made by Representatives George W. Julian and Thaddeus Stevens, both of the Radical Republican faction.[27]: 104 

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 were defeated in the American Civil War, General William Tecumseh Sherman issued Special Field Orders, No. 15 to both "assure the harmony of action in the area of operations"[28] 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 mules 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 reversed the order after Lincoln was assassinated, the land was returned to its previous owners, and the blacks were forced to leave. In 1867, Thaddeus Stevens sponsored a bill for the redistribution of land to African Americans, but it did not pass.

Reconstruction came to an end in 1877 without the issue of reparations having been addressed. Thereafter, a deliberate movement of segregation and oppression arose in Southern states. Jim Crow laws 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 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 of Ohio and sold into slavery in Mississippi. After the American Civil War, she was freed and returned to Cincinnati, where she won her case in federal court in 1878, receiving $2,500 (~$78,931 in 2023) in damages. Though the verdict was a national news story, it did not prompt any trend toward additional similar cases.[29]

Post-Reconstruction Era


In 1896, the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association (MRB&PA) was founded for the purpose of obtaining pensions for former slaves from the Federal government as compensation and reparations for their unpaid labor and suffering. Chartered in 1898 in Nashville, Tennessee, the organization was founded by former slaves Callie House and Isaiah H. Dickerson. According to some historians, the organization was "the first mass reparations movement led by African Americans." The organization and its leaders were hounded with false allegations and criminal prosecutions until its last local branches closed in the 1930's.

In 1915, under Callie House's leadership, the association filed a class-action lawsuit, Johnson v. McAdoo, in federal court against the U.S. Treasury Department for 68 million dollars. $68 million was the amount of cotton tax collected between 1862 and 1868 and, it was argued, was due to the plaintiffs because this cotton had been produced by them and their ancestors as a result of their involuntary servitude. This was the first documented Black reparations litigation in the US on the federal level. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied the claim based on governmental immunity as did the U.S. Supreme Court, siding with the Appeals Court's decision.



The topic became a prominent theme during the 2020 Democratic Party presidential primaries as concerns surrounding race were heightened due to current events.[30] It was further amplified because of African-American people were dying prematurely and disproportionately due to the COVID-19 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 emergency medical technician, fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department 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, a Black American killed during an arrest by Minneapolis police after allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill, that sparked the nationwide George Floyd protests.[31]

Candidates that endorsed the idea included:

Kamala Harris declared in April 2019 she supports reparations.[38]

Beto O'Rourke is "open to considering some form of reparations," according to U.S. News & World Report.[39][40][41]

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

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 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".[42] 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. For two centuries, from the 1700s until World War I, the average wage for one day's unskilled labor in America was one dollar.

According to the Brookings Institution, in 1860, over $3 billion (~$83 billion in 2023) was the value assigned to the physical bodies of enslaved Black Americans to be used as free labor and production.[citation needed] This was more money than was invested in factories and railroads combined. In 1861, the value placed on cotton produced by enslaved Blacks was $250 million (~$6.66 billion in 2023). For the descendants of the 12.5 million Blacks who were shipped in chains from Western Africa, “America has a genetic birth defect when it comes to the question of race,” as stated recently by U.S. Representative Hakeem Jeffries. If America is to atone for this defect, reparations for Black Americans is part of the healing and reconciliation process.

The Rev. M.J. Divine, better known as 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".[43]

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.[44] Nevertheless, the question of who would receive such payments, who should pay them and in what amount, has remained highly controversial,[45][46] since the United States Census 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 passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws.[47]

Nine states have officially apologized for their involvement in the enslavement of Africans. Those states are:

  • Alabama – April 25, 2007[48]
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware – February 11, 2016[49]
  • Florida – 2008[48]
  • Maryland – 2007[48]
  • New Jersey – 2008[48]
  • North Carolina – 2007[50]
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia – 2007[48]

Private institutions


Private institutions and corporations were also involved in slavery. On March 8, 2000, Reuters News Service reported that Deadria Farmer-Paellmann, a law school graduate, initiated a one-woman campaign making a historic demand for restitution and apologies from modern companies that played a direct role in enslaving Africans. Aetna 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.[not specific enough to verify]

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[51] to multidistrict litigation in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The district court dismissed the lawsuits with prejudice, and the claimants appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

On December 13, 2006, that court, in an opinion written by Judge Richard Posner, 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 claims, remanding the case for further proceedings consistent with its opinion.[52] 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.[53]

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, is the prototype for similar laws passed in 12 states around the United States.

The NAACP has called for more of such legislation at local and corporate levels. It quotes Dennis C. Hayes, 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."[54] 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[55] to its Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.[56] While in 1995 the Southern Baptist Convention apologized for the "sins" of racism, including slavery.[57]

In December 2005, a 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.[58]

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.[46]

Black Lives Matter


Many groups under the 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, seizing homes owned by white families and providing them free to blacks,[59] as well as investments in education initiatives, mental health services, and jobs programs.[60] These calls for reparations have been bolstered amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and the high rates of police brutality against Blacks.[61]

Arguments for reparations


Accumulated wealth


Housing discrimination 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.[9] 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 are known today as ghettos and prevented Blacks from accumulating wealth. According to the 45th President, Donald Trump, states may designate up to 25% of low-income census tracts as Opportunity Zones. Opportunity Zones were created under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump. The first Opportunity Zones were designated in April 2018. 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.[62] According to this view, reparations would be valuable primarily as a way of correcting modern economic imbalances.

In 2008 the American Humanist Association 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.[63] Not only did the 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.[64] 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".[4]

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.[65] 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.[66]

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.[62][67] Ta-Nehisi Coates explains it in "The Case for Reparations" article in The Atlantic as "ninety years of Jim Crow, sixty years of separate but equal, and thirty-five years of racist housing policy".[9] The legacy of these policies have kept African Americans from opportunities to build wealth, while slavery "enriched white slave owners and their descendants".[66] Today, the district of North Lawndale in Chicago, where redlining 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.[9]

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.[62][66][68] 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".[69] 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. Malcolm 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."[70]



Advocates have used other examples of reparations to argue that victims of institutional slavery should be similarly compensated.[71]

In several cases the federal government has formally apologized to or compensated minority groups for past actions:

U.S. state governments have made reparations in some specific circumstances:

  • Virginia established a compensation fund for victims of involuntary sterilization in 2015.[72]

Other countries have also opted to pay reparations for past grievances, such as:

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.[73]

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".[67] 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.[62] 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”.[74]

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”.[69] Another suggestion is for reparations to "come in the form of wealth-building opportunities that address racial disparities in education, housing, and business ownership".[66] 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".[74] 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.[4]

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.[69] 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.[75]

Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, who is a descendant of slave owners,[76] while acknowledging that slavery was an "original sin" of the United States, opposes providing reparations because he believes "none of us currently living are responsible."[77]

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.[67] 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".[67] 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".[74] 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 racial unrest from 2020 to the present, these tensions were particularly exposed.[original research?]

Reparations and COVID-19


The call for reparations has amplified due to the coronavirus pandemic, with people of color disproportionately likely to be laid off, to struggle financially, and to die from the virus.[68] 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.[78] This relates back to the fact that white families have roughly ten times the wealth of black families.[62] 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.[citation needed]

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.[79] 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.[79]

Legislation and other actions


Federal government


On July 30, 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws.[47] The Senate apologized in 2009.[80][81]




  • 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.[82] The California Reparations Task Force was established in 2020 as a non-regulatory state agency to study and develop reparation proposals.
  • 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.[82]
  • 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.[82]
  • 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.[82]
  • New York – In December of 2023, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill setting up a commission for the study of slavery's legacy. The commission will possibly make recommendations for monetary compensation or other reparations for New York's Black residents under the effort. The Democrat-controlled state Legislature approved the measure in June.[83]


  • Alabama – Apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans on April 25, 2007.[48][84][85]
  • Connecticut – In 2009 apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans.[86]
  • Delaware – Apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans on February 11, 2016.[49]
  • Florida – In 2008, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America.[48]
  • Maryland – In 2007, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America.[48]
  • New Jersey – In 2007, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America.[48]
  • North Carolina – In 2007, apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans in America.[50]
  • 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.[87][88]
  • Virginia – Apologized for its involvement in the enslavement of Africans on February 26, 2007.[48]


  • 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[89] which is named after North Carolina Governor Zeb Vance, a slave owner who used convict labor to build the railroad to Western North Carolina.[90] Significant community involvement led to the decision. Leading up to the vote, the board received 549 supporting messages and 19 opposing.[91]


  • 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."[92]
  • 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."[2]
  • 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 concrete recommendations for programs and resources allocations to ultimately carry out the reparations.[93] 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"[94] and the work of the Racial Justice Coalition with led the push for the effort.[95] The City Council meeting had so much community engagement public comment was extended for an extra hour beyond the normal meeting time.[93]
  • San Francisco, California: In March 2023, "reparation payments of $5 million to eligible Black residents [were] unanimously accepted by San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors."[96]

Organizations and institutions

  • Aetna: Apologized in 2000 for issuing life insurance policies to enslavers covering the lives of enslaved people from c. 1853 to 1860.[97][98] In 2002, when Farmer-Paellman brought suit against Aetna, CSX and Fleet for unjust enrichment by "a system that enslaved, tortured, starved and exploited human beings,"[99] this suit was dismissed.[100][101]
  • University of Alabama: Apologized for the history of slavery at the university in 2004.[102]
  • Wachovia: Apologized for its connection to slavery in 2005.[103]
  • JP Morgan Chase: Apologized for its connection to slavery in 2005.[104]
  • 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.[105] Later that year, after further pressure and follow up from the Georgetown University Student Association,[106] the university eventually moved forward with a similar proposal without the students' covering the cost with a tuition increase.[107]
  • 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.[2]
  • 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.[2][108]

See also



  1. ^ Medish, Mark; Lucichref, Daniel (August 30, 2019). "Congress must officially apologize for slavery before America can think about reparations". NBC News. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e Davis, Allen (May 11, 2020). "An Historical Timeline of Reparations Payments Made From 1783 through 2020 by the United States Government, States, Cities, Religious Institutions, Colleges and Universities, and Corporations". University of Massachusetts Amherst. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  3. ^ "Why Was Belinda's Petition Approved?". The Royall House and Slave Quarters. December 27, 2017. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
  4. ^ a b c Darity, William (2020). From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century. Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-1469654973.
  5. ^ Lockhart, PR (March 19, 2019). "The 2020 Democratic primary debate over reparations, explained". Vox.
  6. ^ "Calls for reparations are growing louder. How is the US responding?". The Guardian. June 20, 2020. Retrieved July 20, 2020. Several states, localities and private institutions are beginning to grapple with issue, advancing legislation or convening taskforces to develop proposals for reparations.
  7. ^ Cashin, Cheryll (June 21, 2019). "Reparations for slavery aren't enough. Official racism lasted much longer". The Washington Post.
  8. ^ a b c "Black Asheville Demands – Reparations Section". June 26, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  9. ^ a b c d Coates, Ta-Nehisi (June 1, 2014). "The Case for Reparations". The Atlantic.
  10. ^ Marable, Manning. "Racism and Reparations: The time has come for whites to acknowledge the legacy of nearly 250 years of slavery and almost 100 years of legalized segregation". Retrieved September 18, 2020.
  11. ^ Alfred L. Brophy, The Cultural War over Reparations for Slavery, 53 DePaul Law Review 1181–1213, 1182–1184 (Spring 2004)
  12. ^ a b Jones, Thai (January 31, 2020). "Slavery reparations seem impossible. In many places, they're already happening". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  13. ^ Kepley-Steward, Kristy; Santostasi, Stephanie (July 10, 2020). "Confederate monuments in downtown Asheville removed or covered". WLOS. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  14. ^ "America's Long Overdue Awakening to Systemic Racism". Time. June 11, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  15. ^ Jan, Tracy (March 28, 2020). "Redlining was banned 50 years ago. It's still hurting minorities today". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  16. ^ Mitchell, Bruce; Franco, Juan (March 20, 2018). "HOLC "redlining" maps: The persistent structure of segregation and economic inequality". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  17. ^ Nelson, Libby; Lind, Dara (February 24, 2015). "The school to prison pipeline, explained". Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  18. ^ "Report to the United Nations on Racial Disparities in the U.S. Criminal Justice System". April 19, 2020. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  19. ^ Love, David; Das, Vijay (September 9, 2017). "Slavery in the US prison system". Al Jazeera. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  20. ^ Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice (2007). Slavery and Justice (PDF). Brown University. OCLC 301709830.
  21. ^ Heller, Mike (March 2019). "Review of Gary Nash's Warner Mifflin: Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist". George Fox University. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  22. ^ Polgar, Paul J. (December 1, 2018). "Warner Mifflin: Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist". Journal of American History. 105 (3): 660–661. doi:10.1093/jahist/jay310. ISSN 0021-8723.
  23. ^ "The Fearless and Forgotten Warner Mifflin: Quaker Abolitionist of the New Nation". Historical Society of Pennsylvania. Retrieved March 5, 2021.
  24. ^ Nash, Gary B. (2017). Warner Mifflin: Unflinching Quaker Abolitionist. University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 93. ISBN 978-0812294361.
  25. ^ a b Redpath, James (1859). The roving editor, or, Talks with Slaves in the Southern States. New York: A. B. Burdick.
  26. ^ Redpath, James (1860). The public life of Capt. John Brown. Boston: Thayer and Eldridge.
  27. ^ McKivigan, John R. (2008). Forgotten firebrand : James Redpath and the making of nineteenth-century America. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. ISBN 978-0801446733.
  28. ^ "Harmony of Action" – Sherman as an Army Group Commander
  29. ^ McDaniel, W. Caleb. "In 1870, Henrietta Wood Sued for Reparations – and Won". Smithsonian. Retrieved October 6, 2019.
  30. ^ Hagen, Lisa (February 27, 2019). "2020 Democrats' Support for Reparations Lacks Details". US News.
  31. ^ Peyton, Nellie; Murray, Christine (June 24, 2020). "Calls for reparations gain steam as U.S. reckons with racial injustice".
  32. ^ Rep. Jackson Lee, Sheila (January 3, 2019). "H.R.40 – 116th Congress (2019–2020): Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act". Congress.gov. Library of Congress. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  33. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "What is Andrew Yang's Black Agenda?". www.youtube.com – via YouTube.
  34. ^ Santi, Christina (February 1, 2019). "Dem. Presidential Candidate Calls for $100B in Slavery Reparations". Ebony. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  35. ^ "2020 Democrats Wrestle With A Big Question: What Are Reparations?". NPR.org. Retrieved May 2, 2019.
  36. ^ "H.R.40 – 116th Congress (2019–2020): Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act". June 19, 2019.
  37. ^ "S.1083 – H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act". Congress.gov. Retrieved July 12, 2019.
  38. ^ David Weigel (April 4, 2019). "The Trailer: In the Sharpton primary, Democrats put civil rights and reparations at center stage". Washington Post. Retrieved April 6, 2019. asked Sen. Kamala Harris of California whether she supported "some type" of reparations and she said she did
  39. ^ David Catanese (April 3, 2019). "Beto O'Rourke Takes a Stand on Reparations". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved April 6, 2019. This posture signals he's at least now open to considering some form of reparations.
  40. ^ "Beto O'Rourke backs reparations commission: 'Absolutely I would sign that into law'". The Washington Times.
  41. ^ Jeremy Wallace (April 3, 2019). "Beto O'Rourke joins Julián Castro in backing reparations bill in Congress". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved April 6, 2019.
  42. ^ Flaherty, Peter; Carlisle, John (October 2004). "The Case Against Slave Reparations" (PDF). National Legal and Policy Center. p. 1. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  43. ^ "Peace Stamps". peacemission.info. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  44. ^ Paul Shepard (February 11, 2001). "U.S. slavery reparations: Hope that a race will be compensated gains momentum". Seattle Times. Retrieved November 10, 2008.
  45. ^ Bright Simons (April 12, 2007). "Ghanaian President Stirs Controversy Over Slave Trade Reparations". worldpress.org. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  46. ^ a b Michelle Chen (March 27, 2007). "Bill to Study Slavery Reparations Still Facing Resistance". The NewStandard. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  47. ^ a b "Congress Apologizes for Slavery, Jim Crow". NPR. July 30, 2008. but made no mention of reparations.
  48. ^ a b c d e f g h i j "What States Have Apologized for Slavery". Blerd Planet. June 12, 2019. Archived from the original on January 3, 2020. Retrieved June 13, 2019.
  49. ^ a b Moyer, Justin (February 11, 2016). "Delaware apologizes for slavery and Jim Crow. No reparations forthcoming". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 23, 2019.
  50. ^ a b "North Carolina Senate apologizes for slavery". NSNBC. April 5, 2007. Retrieved July 24, 2019.
  51. ^ 28 U.S.C. § 1407
  52. ^ http://www.ca7.uscourts.gov/tmp/Z100WR3H.pdf[dead link]
  53. ^ In re African-American Slave Descendants Litig., 471 F.3d 754, 759 (7th Cir. 2006).
  54. ^ "NAACP to target private business". The Washington Times. July 12, 2005. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  55. ^ "Response of Brown University to the Report of the Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice, February 2007" (PDF). Brown University. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  56. ^ Slavery and Justice: Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice.
  57. ^ "Southern Baptist Convention Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention". Southern Baptist Convention. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  58. ^ Brendan Coyne, "Student Loan Boycott Demands Slavery Reparations", The NewStandard, December 6, 2005.
  59. ^ Miller, J. R. (2020, August 14). Seattle BLM protesters demand white people ‘give up’ their homes. Retrieved from New York Post: https://nypost.com/2020/08/14/seattle-blm-protesters-demand-white-people-give-up-their-homes/
  60. ^ "Black Lives Matter Coalition Makes Demands as Campaign Heats Up". The Center for Popular Democracy. August 1, 2016. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  61. ^ Keeanga Yamahtta-Taylor (April 16, 2020). "The Black Plague". The New Yorker. Retrieved March 17, 2021.
  62. ^ a b c d e Kunnie, Julian (Winter–Spring 2018). "Justice never too late: The historical background to current reparations movements among Africans and African Americans". The Journal of African American History. 103 (1–2): 44–64. doi:10.1086/696364. S2CID 149992900.
  63. ^ Ananda S. Osel, U.S. Apology for Slavery – Apparently Not Front Page News[dead link] The Humanist, Nov/Dec 2008 (American Humanist Association)
  64. ^ Stevens, Robert (2010). The Bracken Rangers: Company K, 28th Regiment, 1st Indiana Cavalry, and Essays on the American Civil War. Lulu.com. ISBN 978-1257851256 – via Google Books.
  65. ^ Jason Silverstein (June 19, 2019). "Being Black in America Is a Health Risk. It's Time for Reparations". Vice.
  66. ^ a b c d Ray, Rashawn; Perry, Andre M. (April 15, 2020). "Why we need reparations for Black Americans". Brookings. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  67. ^ a b c d Prager, Jeffery (November 4, 2017). "Do Black Lives Matter? A Psychoanalytic Exploration of Racism and American Resistance to Reparations". Political Psychology. 38 (4): 637–651. doi:10.1111/pops.12436. S2CID 149317387.
  68. ^ a b Ward, Marguerite. "How decades of US welfare policies lifted up the white middle class and largely excluded Black Americans". Business Insider. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  69. ^ a b c Bittker, Boris (2003). The Case for Black Reparations. Random House.
  70. ^ "Malcolm X Quotes". notable-quotes.com. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  71. ^ "The Legal Basis of the Claim for Slavery Reparations". American Bar Association. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  72. ^ "Victims of Eugenics Sterilization Compensation Program". Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services.
  73. ^ "In re: African-American Slave Descents Ligation". Case Law. Retrieved July 9, 2019.
  74. ^ a b c Breeanna Hare and Doug Criss (August 15, 2020). "People are again talking about slavery reparations. But it's a complex and thorny issue". CNN. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  75. ^ Greenhut, Steven (April 5, 2019). "Reparations Are More Likely to Divide the Nation Than Heal It". Reason.
  76. ^ Siemaszko, Corky (July 8, 2019). "Sen. Mitch McConnell's great-great-grandfathers owned 14 slaves, bringing reparations issue close to home". NBC News. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  77. ^ Ted Barrett, Ted (June 19, 2019). "McConnell opposes paying reparations: 'None of us currently living are responsible' for slavery". CNN. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  78. ^ "40% of black-owned businesses not expected to survive coronavirus". CBS News. June 22, 2020. Retrieved October 19, 2020.
  79. ^ a b Wood, Daniel (September 23, 2020). "As Pandemic Deaths Add Up, Racial Disparities Persist — And In Some Cases Worsen". NPR News. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  80. ^ Medish, Mark; Lucich, Daniel (August 30, 2019). "Congress must officially apologize for slavery before America can think about reparations". NBC News. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  81. ^ "Senate approves resolution apologizing for slavery". CNN. Retrieved October 21, 2023.
  82. ^ a b c d McCarthy, Kevin (February 1, 2012). Slavery Era Insurance Registry Laws (Report). OLR Research Report. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  83. ^ Robinson, David (December 19, 2023). "NY to study reparations for slavery, possible direct payments to Black residents". Utica Observer-Dispatch.
  84. ^ "Riley Signs Slavery Apology". Alabama Public Radio. May 31, 2007. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  85. ^ White, David (May 31, 2007). "Riley signs slavery-apology resolution". AL.com. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  86. ^ "House Passes Resolution to Apologize for Slavery". Hartford Courant. May 22, 2009.
  87. ^ "Tennessee weighs an apology for slavery". April 16, 2014. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  88. ^ "TN votes to express regret for slavery, but not apologize". Chattanooga Times Free Press. Associated Press. April 16, 2020.
  89. ^ Penter, Caitlyn (June 16, 2020). "Confederate monuments to be moved from downtown Asheville". Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  90. ^ Ready, Milton (June 25, 2015). "When past is present: Zeb Vance and his monument". Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  91. ^ Walter, Rebecca (June 17, 2020). "Monumental decision: Buncombe County approves removal of Confederate statues".
  92. ^ Hassan, Adeel; Healy, Jack (June 19, 2019). "America Has Tried Reparations Before. Here Is How It Went". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2020. 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.
  93. ^ a b Burgess, Joel (July 14, 2020). "In historic move, Asheville approves reparations for Black residents". Citizen Times. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  94. ^ "City OKs monuments' removal, pending county approval". June 15, 2020. Retrieved July 15, 2020.
  95. ^ "In historic move, North Carolina city approves reparations for Black residents". July 15, 2020. Retrieved October 30, 2020.
  97. ^ Groark, Virginia (May 5, 2002). "Slave Policies". The New York Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  98. ^ "Ethics Newsline® » News » Aetna Apologizes For Pre-Civil-War Policies Issued On Lives Of Slaves". Globalethics.org. March 13, 2000. Archived from the original on October 17, 2013. Retrieved February 12, 2011.
  99. ^ "Aetna, CSX, FleetBoston face slave reparations suit". USA Today. March 24, 2002. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  100. ^ Cox, James (January 26, 2004). "Judge rejects lawsuit seeking reparations". USA Today. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  101. ^ Olson, Walter (October 31, 2008). "So long, slavery reparations". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved May 2, 2010.
  102. ^ Cruz, Gilbert (April 20, 2004). "UA apologizes for history of slavery". Tuscaloosa News. Retrieved January 30, 2022.
  103. ^ Katie Benner (June 2, 2005). "Wachovia apologizes for ties to slavery". CNN/Money. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  104. ^ "JP Morgan admits US slavery links". BBC News. November 15, 2017. Retrieved November 15, 2017.
  105. ^ "America Has Tried Reparations Before. Here Is How It Went". The New York Times. June 19, 2019. Retrieved July 12, 2020. 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.
  106. ^ Li, Amy (June 25, 2019). "Board of Directors Meets, Does Not Vote on GU272 Referendum". The Hoya. Georgetown University. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  107. ^ Ebbs, Stephanie (October 30, 2019). "Georgetown University announces reparations fund to benefit descendants of slaves once sold by the school". ABC News. Retrieved July 12, 2020.
  108. ^ Wright, Will (May 31, 2021). "Seminary Built on Slavery and Jim Crow Labor Has Begun Paying Reparations". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331.

Further reading


21st century

  • Araujo, Ana Lucia (2017). Reparations for Slavery and the Slave Trade: A Transnational and Comparative History. Bloomsbury. ISBN 978-1350010604.
  • 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.
  • Darity, William Jr., A. Kirsten Mullen, and Marvin Slaughter. 2022. "The Cumulative Costs of Racism and the Bill for Black Reparations." Journal of Economic Perspectives, 36 (2): 99–122.
  • DeGruy, Joy (2017) [2005]. Post Traumatic Slave Syndrome: America's Legacy of Enduring Injury and Healing (Newly Revised and Updated ed.). Joy Degruy Publications. ISBN 978-0985217273.
  • 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.
  • Kauffman, Matthew (September 29, 2002). "The Debt". Hartford Courant. pp. 192–197 – via newspapers.com.
  • 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
  • Millman, Noah (May 29, 2014). "Taking Reparations Seriously". American Conservative.
  • Severson, Kim (July 4, 2021). "Her Family Owned Slaves. How Can She Make Amends?". The New York Times.
  • 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.

19th century