The debate over reparations for African-Americans, descendants of those brought to the United States as enslaved people, has existed since the very end of the Civil War. It’s taken various forms ranging from the idea of 40 acres and a mule to monetary payments. But from 1861 to 2020, the idea has never gained serious traction in state legislatures or on Capitol Hill.
Opponents of reparations argue slavery is such an ancient part of American history that compensation is not only impossibly complicated; it’s unnecessary. And did America not already pay its debt for slavery through the losses incurred during the Civil War? And are equal rights not already part of American culture today?
Supporters of reparations point to persistent disparities in net worth, health outcomes, environmental justice, and representation in government and the larger culture.
On this edition, we take a closer look at the case for black reparations and why the co-authors of the book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century argue that closing the wealth would solve a host of other problems that arise from racial disparities.
Dr. William Darity, Samuel DuBois Cook Distinguished Professor of Public Policy, Duke University
Kirsten Mullen, Folklorist; Founder of the literary consortium Carolina Circuit Writers, which brings writers of color to the Carolinas; Founder of the arts-consulting practice, Artefactual