African-Americans, Race, Social Problems, Stratification

Opinion: Black People’s Land Was Stolen

Any discussion of reparations must include how this happened, who did it, and the laws, policies and practices that allowed it.

By Andrew W. Kahrl

Dr. Kahrl is an associate professor of history and African-American studies at the University of Virginia.

June 20, 2019

A House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday held the first hearing in over a decade on the issue of reparations for black Americans. The hearing took place, fittingly, on the Juneteenth holiday, commemorating the announcement of the end of slavery in the United States, and five years after the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates, who testified, reignited the debate with his 2014 essay “The Case for Reparations.” Once a fringe topic, reparations has emerged as an issue in the 2020 presidential campaign, with several leading candidates for the Democratic nomination expressing support for various measures to atone for America’s racist past.

Thanks to Mr. Coates and others, today’s movement for reparations places as much emphasis on the racist public policies of the 20th century, which denied black Americans opportunities to build wealth and left them vulnerable to all manner of economic exploitation, as it does on the crimes of slavery.

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