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)
ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Racism and Hate
Oct. 30, 2020  Systemic Racism
Aug. 23, 2019  Reparations for Slavery
May 12, 2017  Anti-Semitism
Mar. 17, 2017  ‘Alt-Right’ Movement
Jan. 08, 2016  Racial Conflict
Sep. 18, 2015  Far-Right Extremism
Nov. 22, 2013  Racial Profiling
May 08, 2009  Hate Groups
Jun. 01, 2007  Shock Jocks Updated
Jan. 07, 1994  Racial Tensions in Schools
Jan. 08, 1993  Hate Crimes
May 12, 1989  The Growing Danger of Hate Groups
Nov. 05, 1969  American History: Reappraisal and Revision
Mar. 31, 1965  Extremist Movements in Race and Politics
May 13, 1964  Racism in America
Dec. 03, 1958  Spread of Terrorism and Hatemongering
Jul. 10, 1946  Ku Klux Klan
Jan. 09, 1945  Race Equality
Dec. 19, 1933  Lynching and Kidnapping
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