Reparations Pro and Con
Oxford University Press, 2006
Posted: 14 Apr 2008
Long before the phrase 40 acres and a mule was coined to describe what black Americans were owed for slavery, abolitionists discussed compensating slaves for what had been unjustly taken from them. Today, the debate over reparations for slavery and Jim Crow - whether African-Americans should be compensated for decades of racial subjugation - stands as the most racially divisive issue in American politics.
Discussion of reparations leads often to more animosity than serious consideration of the issue, with reparations advocates and skeptics taking extreme positions, rather than reaching for common ground. In a concise compass, Reparations Pro and Con considers the debate over reparations from the 1700s to the present, examining the arguments on both sides of the current debate. Brophy tells the story of the black reparations movement from Thaddeus Stevens, through the dark days of Jim Crow and then the Harlem Renaissance, to critical race theory, and relates it to other movements for racial justice. Most importantly, he puts the debate into context of the practice of reparations, such as for Jewish victims of the Holocaust, Native Americans, and for the detainment of Japanese Americans during World War II. The book also considers litigation and legislation past and present, examining failed and successful lawsuits, and reparations actions by legislatures, newspapers, schools, and businesses, including apologies and truth commissions. Reparations: Pro and Con concludes with a frank and sober look at the case for reparations and where, if anywhere, the movement is going. It suggests that the movement may lead to a renewed advocacy of social-welfare programs regardless of race.
Keywords: reparations, slavery, Jim Crow
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