20 Harv. Blackletter L. J. 49 (2004)
Documenting the Costs of Slavery, Segregation, and Contemporary Racism: Why Reparations Are in Order for African Americans

handle is hein.journals/hblj20 and id is 53 raw text is: DOCUMENTING THE COSTS OF SLAVERY,
SEGREGATION, AND CONTEMPORARY
RACISM: WHY REPARATIONS ARE IN
ORDER FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS
Joe R. Feagin*
I. INTRODUCTION
Without significant reparations for African Americans, the deepest ra-
cial divide, in the United States will never be eliminated. As Randall
Robinson has put it in The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks, if... Afri-
can Americans will not be compensated for the massive wrongs and so-
cial injuries inflicted upon them by their government, during and after
slavery, then there is no chance that America can solve its racial prob-
lems.' This is a strong statement, yet true.
In this Article, I examine why large-scale reparations should be made
to African Americans and how that task might be accomplished. In a pio-
neering 1973 book, The Case for Black Reparations, Yale law professor Boris
Bittker argued that the oppression faced by African Americans was more
extensive than that faced by other racial groups and required major repa-
rations in compensation.' At the time, almost no one paid any attention to
his analysis. Today, however, many analysts have finally resurrected the
idea of reparations and have begun to take action on that idea. There are
many voices concerned about the high costs of anti-black oppression that
have continued over four centuries. It seems ever more likely that repara-
tions in some form will be paid to African Americans over the next half
century.3
II. UNJUST ENRICHMENT AND UNJUST IMPOVERISHMENT
What are the grounds for large-scale reparations for African Ameri-
cans? The basic rationale for group compensation lies in the stolen labor
* Ella McFadden Professor of Liberal Arts, Texas A&M University.
1. RANDALL ROBINSON, THE DEBT: WHAT AMERICA OWES TO BLACKS 204 (2000).
2. BORIS BITTKER, THE CASE FOR BLACK REPARATIONS (1973).
3. This Article was originally prepared for the Center for Social Development sympo-
sium Inclusion in Asset Building, St. Louis, Missouri, Sept. 21-23, 2000. Revised here,
it utilizes and greatly extends arguments made in JOE R. FEAGIN, RACIST AMERICA:
ROOTS, CURRENT REALITIES, AND FUTURE REPARATIONS (2000), and JOE R. FEAGIN &
CLAIRECE B. FEAGIN, RACIAL AND ETHNIC RELATIONS (7th ed. 2003). I am indebted to
Ken Nunn, Roy Brooks, and Bernice McNair Barnett for helpful comments and to
Danielle Dirks for research assistance.

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