Theses Doctoral

A History of Harms: Organizational Accountability and Repair for Past and Continuing Injustices

Chen-Carrel, Allegra

Some organizations considering tackling racial injustice are engaging in historical accountability processes for past harms. Here, I explore three cases of organizational historical accountability: APA’s public apology and action plan to address its history of perpetuating racism, Georgetown University grappling with its history of slavery, and the land transfer from Yale Union to the Native Arts and Culture Foundation as an act of land re-matriation. Using an exploratory case study approach based on analysis of publicly available documents, 16 interviews with involved stakeholders and 10 interviews with academics and activists, I explore these organizations’ processes of historical accountability, the facilitating factors and challenges these organizations encountered, and the elements stakeholders saw as particularly essential to these projects.

These case studies exemplify ways these processes can connect past patterns with present and future dynamics, deconstruct destructive dynamics, reconstruct constructive dynamics, and also maintain existing patterns. These case studies reveal stakeholders often have different aims and lenses for viewing these processes. Given these differences, I propose five orientations for the ways organizations can take on historical accountability projects: perform, reform, repair, dismantle, and realign. These orientations are not mutually exclusive, but may help distinguish different aims, logics, theories of change, and elements that undergird historical accountability projects aimed at racial justice.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Social-Organizational Psychology
Thesis Advisors
Coleman, Peter T.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 7, 2022