Reparations for African-Americans has been a hot topic on the presidential campaign trail, with Democratic candidates including Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren coming out in favor of compensation for unpaid African-American labor.
But the debate around reparations is nothing new. In fact, it goes back centuries.
On this episode, Nathan, Ed and Brian explore the complicated – and often contentious – history of reparations, from the first mass reparations movement led by Callie House, an ex-slave, to a unique moment when African-Americans in Florida received compensation for the destruction of their community.
This episode and related resources are funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this show, do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Paying for the Past Lesson Set
Though the American Civil War concluded over 150 years ago, its effects still resonate in the social, economic, and political lives of millions of Americans. At the conclusion of the war, the federal government made efforts to rebuild the lives of former slaves. Though many of these “Reconstruction Era” efforts were well-meaning, they faced stiff opposition from former slave owners and politicians who did not want to enfranchise African Americans. As a result, many freed slaves faced generational socioeconomic hurdles preventing upward mobility.
21st century politicians and economists are still grappling with how to best address significant disparities in wealth and racial equality. One frequently discussed idea is the payment of reparations to descendants of former slaves. The goal is to properly fulfill the failed promise of Reconstruction Era policies and fight against systemic and historical barriers to advancement. However, these policies come in many different forms and are contentious for many Americans.
This lesson focuses on different aspects of reparations throughout American history. The goal is to force students to confront questions about how to best address ongoing disparities of race, wealth, and justice. How has the United States tried to address these questions in the past? Why has reparations endured as controversial issue in American politics today?