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38 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 279 (2003)
Repairing the Past: New Efforts in the Reparations Debate in America

handle is hein.journals/hcrcl38 and id is 285 raw text is: Repairing the Past:
New Efforts in the Reparations Debate
in America
Charles J. Ogletree, Jr
The reparations debate, in America and globally, has gained momentum
in recent years, and it will only grow in significance over time. The claim
that America owes a debt for the enslavement and segregation of African
Americans has had historical currency for over 150 years. Occasionally,
the call for repayment of the debt for slavery has reached a fever pitch, par-
ticularly in the post-Civil War period. The demand for reparations has
coincided with other civil rights strategies, reaching a national stage during
the resolute leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.' The reparations
movement has experienced ebbs and flows through periods of both force-
ful repression and abject depression. Today, in America and worldwide, we
again face one of those historically significant moments when the momen-
tum for reparations efforts rises and arguments that seemed morally and le-
gally unfeasible reemerge with renewed political vigor and legal vitality.
The number of reparations lawsuits and legislative initiatives at the
local and state level is unprecedented. A variety of lawsuits are currently
on file in various state and federal courts around the country. Focusing
Professor, Harvard Law School. Professor Ogletree is the co-chair of the Reparations
Movement Coordinating Committee and has authored a number of articles on reparations.
See, e.g., Charles J. Ogletree Jr., Litigating the Legacy of Slavery, N.Y. TIMES, Mar. 31,
2002, § 4, at 9; Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., The Case for Reparations, USA WEEKEND, Aug. 18,
2002, available at http://www.usaweekend.com/02 issues/020818/020818reparations.html;
Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Reparations for the Children of Slaves: Litigating the Issues, 33 U.
MEMPHIS L. REV. (forthcoming 2003). Professor Ogletree is also a lead attorney on a repa-
rations lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Oklahoma. Alexander v. Governor of Okla-
homa, No. 03CVI33E (N.D. Okla. filed Feb. 24, 2003) (suit brought on behalf of survivors of
the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 and descendants of the victims of that riot, suing the governor
of Oklahoma, the city of Tulsa, the Tulsa chief of police, and the Tulsa Police Department
for damages and injunctive relief under the Fourteenth Amendment and 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981,
1983, and 1985, as well as for supplemental state-law claims).
'See, e.g., Martin Luther King, Jr., I Have a Dream, in I HAVE A DREAM: WRITINGS
AND SPEECHES THAT CHANGED THE WORLD 101 (1992) [hereinafter King, I Have a Dream];
Martin Luther King, Jr., A Time to Break Silence, in I HAVE A DREAM, supra, at 135.

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