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TiBA Engagement Resources

December 2022

TIBA’s Mission: To foster knowledge and engagement that will break through our resistance to confronting our shared legacy of slavery. The resources listed here are aligned with our mission to discuss and address race among multi-cultural and multi-racial groups. If you are aware of related organizations, articles, or events that can further TIBA’s mission, please email:, attn: Sydney Chayes.


Reparations for slavery continues to generate much discussion, but little action. Advocates believe it is essential to healing the devastation that continues to haunt Black communities. Opponents say it is impractical and/or unnecessary for many reasons. 

The debate over reparations is not new. Since the Civil War, Black Americans have sought reparations to rectify years of racial terror and prejudice. In 1897 Callie House began National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association to mobilize freed men and women to lobby Congress for pensions and land. Hundreds of thousands joined her organization and in 1916 she was accused of mail fraud and jailed. Others called on the federal government to make good on Special Field Order No.15, a short-lived Civil War-era law that redistributed confiscated Confederate land to former slaves in 40-acre plots. By the turn of the century, the phrase “40 acres and a mule” became a catchall term for reparations claims. 

US Slavery Reparations Bill HR40
“Queen Mother” Audley Moore is credited with starting and sustaining current efforts for reparations, leading eventually to creation of U.S. House Bill HR 40.

The designation as H.R. 40 memorializes Special Field Order No. 15. HR 40 has been introduced at every congressional session since 1989. On April 14, 2021 the House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee voted to move the bill to the House floor for full consideration. The bill establishes a commission to examine slavery and discrimination in the colonies and the United States from 1619 to the present and recommend appropriate remedies. HR 40 would study reparations and make recommendations only. At this point in time, the bill has not been passed.

Opposition to Reparations

In a survey conducted by Professor Tatishe Nteta, who teaches at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, nearly 2/3 of Americans oppose reparations for slavery. In his interview with NPR Audrey Cornish in June 2021 Professor Nteta discusses his findings.

“The most frequent explanation … are that African Americans and the descendants of slaves are undeserving….. So it's not about cost; it's about perceptions of deservedness. And if you sort of dig deeper into this explanation, it's really about the notion that the reparation should go to actual slaves… there's a belief that the descendants of slaves have no real standing; they're not deserving of receiving these cash payments….”  “…the second-most popular reason is that it's impossible to place a monetary value on the impact of slavery.”

Other articles that discuss the obstacles to reparations often include: How do you determine who the descendants of slaves are? Which descendants qualify? There's no causation, no causal link, the people have long since died, both perpetrators and victims.

Alternative Views of Reparations

Recent discussion of reparations explore a wider view than simple cash payments. A November/December 2022 Harvard Magazine article explores the precedence for U.S. Government “reparations” and how those could apply to reparations for slavery.

In the article, Professor Linda Bilmes, former assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and Cornell Brooks, Hauser professor of the practice of nonprofit organizations of the Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), have documented the scope, administration, and funding mechanisms of what they term “reparatory compensation.” They’ve found that U.S. government no-fault programs to make people whole number in the thousands. Reparations in the strict sense have also been paid in cases of official injustice—for instance, to Japanese Americans held in internment camps during World War II. Aiding the pair in their effort …were the leaders of the Black Students Associations at both HKS and the Law School, and two other students.

Bilnes found that the U.S. Government uses a range of techniques and tools and mechanisms to pay for these reparatory compensations: a combination of excise taxes, special assessments, trust funds, and subsidized insurance.” In the realm of insurance, the familiar example is that the “FDIC insures bank deposits to $250,000 per account.” The government also “subsidizes no-fault flood insurance and agricultural insurance of many different kinds.”

An article by the American Bar Association in August 2022 is titled Slavery reparation proposals spurred by widening U.S. wealth gap. The article highlights comments from panelists discussion of reparations using as the basis the well documented racial wealth gap in the U.S. Since the Reagan-era tax cuts were implemented in the 1980s, median net worth among Black families has been stuck at $8,000 to $24,000. Meanwhile, White household median net worth grew from $124,600 in 1992 to $189,100 in 2019, adjusting for inflation. Tonia Wellons, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Community Foundation, explained how “the racial wealth gap will not close itself.” She stated that the gap represents “the greatest manifestation of systemic racism and the greatest opportunity for reparation.” She believes a privately funded reparations program could successfully lift Black communities and affected individuals. 

Panelists suggested funding reparations through the federal estate tax and proposing new charitable incentives, including a new type of charitable organization called a “501(c)(40) Reparations Organization.” It would provide increased tax incentives to create a private-public partnership for repairing the racial wealth gap and allow wealthy donors to be tax-motivated to contribute to Black reparations without social objection.

Additional Information

There are countless websites and articles on the topic of reparations.  Here are a just a few:

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Image by Rose Wong appears on article here.
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