Through the use of case studies, we will explore the history and social conditions that have spurred the call for reparations in the United States. The course will begin with an overview of the contemporary calls for reparations, which have generally been led by African American legislators, policy makers, activists and journalists. But as you will learn in this course, other communities and groups have aligned themselves with a call for reparations at various times, often driven by specific historical events. Moreover, as you will read and we will discuss, the call for reparations is not limited to the United States.
As a matter of social policy, some of the earliest claims followed the emancipation of nearly 4 million formerly enslaved African Americans. But the idea of reparations also included Native Americans who saw their lands claimed as they were sent first to the Indian territories in Oklahoma and ultimately reservations across the country. Here we must confront the question of sovereignty and the use and some may say abuse of treaties. Both the case studies of Native Alaskans and Japanese Americans add additional texture to the history of the battle for reparations in the United States.
To widen the lens a bit so that we can better understand the American story, we will take brief looks at Germany and South Africa as well.
Ultimately, we will return to today’s public debates and ask and discuss whether there is a public policy case for reparations for African Americans. If so, which people of African descent? What should be the contours of the reparation?