Theses Master's

An Exploration and Review of the Historical and Contemporary Efforts Towards Acquiring Economic Reparations for Slavery and Building Reparative Systems in the United States

Brown, Olivia

Since the arrival of the White Lion and Treasurer ships on the coast of Virginia in 1619 (Silverstien, 2019) the United States government has proceeded to create an economic, political and social system of racial capitalism that prioritizes whiteness and property. The property on those ships, enslaved, African newly American people, were to be stripped of their civility and humanity, tortured and disenfranchised for centuries in the process. This torture and disenfranchisement enabled by the aforementioned system has had lasting effects on not only those directly enslaved but also on their descendants for generations.

These lasting generational effects are in part due to the lack of contemporary systems that both acknowledge the horror and harm caused by slavery and that actively work to provide reparations to and build the capacity of the Black American community in the present. Reparations in this context can be described as “a system of redress for egregious injustices.” (Ray & Perry, 2020) In considering long term, sustainable solutions to the above disparities and the residual effects of slavery at large, it is important to consider how to build a restitutive system that allows Black Americans to experience the liberty and freedom that the United States Constitution promises. This is especially true amidst the Coronavirus pandemic where studies have shown that Black Americans are more likely to have and be at risk for the virus (Pfizer, 2020)and that reparations via wealth redistribution could not only improve health and alleviate this disparity in Black Americans but improve health for the entire nation(Richardson et al., 2020). Currently, however, no such system exists though there have been segmented efforts across sectors.

In his book “The Debt: What America Owes Blacks” Randall Robinson posits “If… African Americans will not be compensated for the massive wrongs and social injuries inflicted upon them by their government, during and after slavery, then there is no chance that America can solve its racial problems.” (Robinson, 2001) As such, this thesis aims to address the above gap and begin providing recommendations that translate research into tangible actions directed at building a reparative system for Black Americans.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Sociomedical Sciences
Thesis Advisors
Wingood, Gina M.
M.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
May 5, 2021