African American reparations: a selected annotated bibliography.

Author:Zulu, Itibari M.


This descriptive selective annotated bibliography is primarily focused on the African American experience in the U.S. in accordance with the intent of our journal in joining The Black Scholar, The Journal of African American History, Souls: A Critical Review of Black Culture, the Journal of Black Psychology, African American Learners and other scholarly publications in a Call for Papers on the "Ten Point Program for Reparations for African Americans" devoted to the discussion and analysis of what might be included in a "Ten Point Program" for reparation payments to African Americans in the United States, organized by V.P. Franklin (Department of History, University of New Orleans), editor of The Journal of African American History.

I am pleased by this call because it energizes the discussion of reparations, and again it is a reminder of how far we have come, and how far we must go to fulfil the dreams and wishes of our ancestors as that we don't simply become a "footnote and forgotten casualty in European history and culture" (Karenga 2010: 260).

The impetus in part for this effort is Hilary McD. Beckles's book Britain's Black Debt: Britain's Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide (2015) [annotated below] which sent new spark into the ongoing dialogue and research efforts surrounding reparations in the tradition of Eric William's 1944 book, Capitalism and Slavery, a classic which argues that the process of enslavement helped finance the Industrial Revolution in England as plantation owners, shipbuilders, and merchants connected to the European slave trade accumulated vast fortunes that established banks and heavy industry in Europe and expanded the reach of capitalism worldwide. Second, the now famous 15,000 word article "The Case for Reparations" in The Atlantic (June 2014) by Ta-Nechis Coates based on original research, an extensive bibliography and film clips (the article broke the record for single-day traffic on the magazine's website when it was published May 21).

Third in this bibliographic scenario is Randall Robinson's national bestseller The Debt: What America Owes to Blacks (2001) wherein he argues for the restoration of the rich history that enslavement and segregation severed, drawing from research and personal experience, and shows that only by reclaiming a lost past and proud heritage Black people can lay the foundation for the future. And suggest that white Americans can make reparations for slavery and the century of racial discrimination that followed with monetary restitution, educational programs, and the kinds of equal opportunities that will ensure the social and economic success of all its citizens. Based in an unflinching indictment of past wrongs and an impassioned call to the U.S. to educate everyone about the history of Africa and its people, and of course, he makes a persuasive case for the debt white America owes Black people, and the debt Black folks owe themselves. And last but not least, Should America Pay?: Slavery and the Raging Debate Over Reparations (NY: Amistad, 2003) edited by Raymond Winbush that gathers pro and con essays from key participants in the debate with important documents, such as the First Congressional Reparations Bill of 1867 and the Dakar Declaration of 2001, as well as a chapter on the current status and future direction of the reparations movement with an outline of the legal status of reparations, strategies of the National Black United Front.

The intent of this introductory select literature review is to provide a concise summary of relevant content and highlight its central thesis, arguments/hypothesis, and conclusions. All of the content falls within the last 15 years, a period of major change: in 2001, two hijacked jetliners crash into two towers of World Trade Center in New York, one into the Pentagon, and another in rural Pennsylvania (more than 3,000 people died in the attacks); in 2006, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that the U.S. population; in 2008, Barack Obama became the first African-American to be elected President, with 52.8% of the vote; then the police shootings began, in 2009 unarmed Oscar Grant III was killed by transit police in Oakland, California; in 2011 the United Nations proclaimed the year as International Year for People of African Descent, civil society organizations join UNESCO Slave Route project to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Taubira Law and the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action, recognizing that "slavery and the slave trade are a crime against humanity"; in 2012 an unarmed 17-year-old named Trayvon Martin was killed in Sanford, Florida; in 2013 Black Lives Matter was born to campaign against police violence toward Black people; in 2014 Eric Garner (Staten Island, New York), and also in 2014, unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri. These last fifteen years have been turbulent, and it is for this reason (and others) why reparations is a reasonable request considering the history of oppression calculated against Black people from the first day of capture in Africa, until today.

The organization of this work is into two main sections, first books, and then articles. Enjoy and do not hesitate to suggest via, other books or articles relevant and useful to the ongoing pivot of issues on or related to national or international reparations efforts.

Itibari M. Zulu, Th.D.

Senior Editor, Africology: The Journal of Pan African Studies


Jefferson, Tara. "Ta-Nehisi Coates Presents "Case for Reparations" at City Club of Cleveland". Anisfield-Wolf Book Award (August 24, 2014). [Retrieved May 22, 2016].

Karenga, Maulana. Introduction to Black Studies. Los Angeles, CA: University of Sankore Press, 2010.


Beckles, Hilary McD. Britain's Black Debt: Britain's Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide. Cave Hill, Barbados: University of West Indies Press, 2015.

This book looks comprehensively at the reparations discussion in the Caribbean. The author is a leading economic historian of the region and a seasoned activist in the wider movement for social justice and advocacy of historical truth, and as such, he is uniquely positioned to explore the origins and development of reparations as a regional and international process. Thus, he weaves detailed historical data on Caribbean slavery and the transatlantic European slave trade together with legal principles and the politics of post-colonialism, and sets out a solid academic analysis of the evidence. He concludes that Britain has a case of reparations to answer, which the Caribbean should litigate. International law provides that chattel slavery as practiced by Britain was a crime against humanity. Slavery was invested in by the royal family, the government, the established church, most elite families, and large public institutions in the private and public sector. Citing the legal principles of unjust and criminal enrichment, the author presents a compelling argument for Britain's payment of its black debt, a debt that it continues to deny in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Berry, Mary Frances. My Face Is Black Is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations. New York, NY: Vintage Books, 2006.

This book resurrects the story of Callie House (1861-1928) a formerly enslaved person (a widowed Nashville washerwoman, seamstress and mother of five) who seventy years before the civil-rights movement, headed a demand for reparations for the formerly enslaved in the U.S. Nevertheless, she fought for African American pensions based on those offered to Union soldiers, brilliantly targeting $68 million in taxes on seized rebel cotton and demanding it as repayment for centuries of unpaid labor. In 1899, in Nashville help found the National Ex-Slave Mutual Relief, Bounty and Pension Association to provide aid to the poor and the sick.

House recognized the need for pensions to support the formerly enslaved left aged and destitute and as a reward for Black people who served in the Union army, even as the government provided pensions to white Union veterans and sought to compensate Southern plantation owners. Thus, this reparations campaign provoked the ire of the U.S. Postal Service, which charged House and her compatriots with mail fraud and subjected them to scrutiny, harassment, and prosecution (she was convicted of mail fraud). In 1915, nearly bankrupt, the association switched tactics and filed a lawsuit claiming that a cotton tax levied to support the war should pay for a pension for ex-slaves; the suit lost on the grounds of government immunity. House was eventually imprisoned for her activities and died in 1928.

Henry, Charles P. Long Overdue: The Politics of Racial Reparations. NY: New York University Press, 2009.

Ever since the unfulfilled promise of "forty acres and a mule," America has consistently failed to confront the issue of racial injustice. Exploring why America has failed to compensate Black Americans for the wrongs of slavery, this book provides a history of the racial reparations movement and shows why it is an idea whose time has come. Second, it examines Americans' unwillingness to confront this economic injustice, and crafts a skillful moral, political, economic, and historical argument for African American reparations...

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