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Abstract

Recent congressional action to award Japanese Americans "reparations" for their internment during World War II, as well as the Florida state legislature's act to award $150,000 to black survivors of a white riot rampage of Rosewood, a black town, in 1923, has contributed to a re-emergence of the call for black reparations. Several black state and local politicians and leaders across the United States have called for legislative action that would compensate blacks for three and one half centuries of racial enslavement. The awarding of reparations to Japanese Americans is not the only precedent for indemnity to a group of people suffering within a political, economic, and military system seeking to do that group major harm: At the end of World War II, Jewish people were given financial assistance as recompense for Nazi atrocities committed against them.

The call for black reparations has a long history in the United States as illustrated in a recent book by Richard F. America, Paying the Social Debt. The Freedmen's Bureau, established by the federal government after the end of the Civil War, unsuccessfully sought compensation for recently freed slaves. On April 25, 1969, the National Black Economic Development conference meeting in Detroit, Michigan, called for reparations to be paid by churches and synagogues in the amount of $500 million, or $15 for every black individual in the United States at that time. Recently, a legislative bill calling for the appointment of a commission to study reparations was filed in Massachusetts. A similar bill has been filed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and no doubt, more reparations measures and initiatives will be filed with other governing bodies throughout the United States.

 

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