Reparations for Slavery

August 23, 2019 • Volume 29, Issue 29
Are slaves' descendants owed compensation?
By Alan Greenblatt


A majority of African Americans believes the United States should make amends for the intergenerational harm caused by slavery and post-Civil War segregation, with some calling for cash payments to descendants of slaves and others favoring programs to help poor communities narrow the economic gap between blacks and whites. More than a half-dozen Democratic presidential candidates, along with some congressional Democrats, either support cash reparations, which could total billions of dollars, or formation of a commission to study the issue. But a majority of the public opposes reparations, as do President Trump, many other top Republicans and some African Americans. They argue that Americans living today are not responsible for slavery and that methods other than reparations would be more effective in helping African Americans. Some legal experts are skeptical that reparations would pass constitutional muster. But proponents point to other examples, domestic and international, in which governments have paid reparations to atone for systemic harm.

Reparations supporters, including a man dressed as a slave (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
Reparations supporters, including a man dressed as a slave, protest outside the Washington, D.C., home of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on July 1. McConnell said in June that reparations are a bad idea. (Getty Images/Alex Wong)
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Jan. 22, 2021  Corporate D&I
Oct. 30, 2020  Systemic Racism
Oct. 16, 2020  Monument Protests
Oct. 09, 2020  Police Under Scrutiny Updated
Aug. 23, 2019  Reparations for Slavery
Sep. 07, 2018  The STEM Gender Gap
Jan. 19, 2018  Future of Puerto Rico
Nov. 17, 2017  Affirmative Action and College Admissions
Jul. 28, 2017  Muslims in America
Mar. 10, 2017  Charter Schools
Sep. 23, 2016  Women in Leadership
Aug. 05, 2016  Diversity in Hollywood
May 13, 2016  Women in Combat
Jan. 08, 2016  Racial Conflict
Dec. 11, 2015  Transgender Rights
May 01, 2015  Community Colleges
Apr. 24, 2015  Native American Youths
Apr. 03, 2015  Latino Voters
Dec. 12, 2014  Police Tactics
Sep. 14, 2007  Racial Diversity in Public Schools Updated
Dec. 12, 2003  Black Colleges
Oct. 10, 1997  Diversity in the Workplace
Jan. 20, 1971  Ethnic America
Civil Rights and Civil Liberty Issues
Civil Rights Movement
Civil Wars
Consumer Credit and Debt
Diversity Issues
Domestic Issues
Lobbying and Special Interests
Manufacturing and Industrial Production
Powers and History of the Presidency
Race and Hate Crimes
Segregation and Desegregation