Last updated 8 January 2020
With the superb assistance and encouragement of Lisa Di Valentino, Law Librarian at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; Mary Hubbard, Assistant Director of the Peterborough Library (NH); and Andrew Reiter, Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations, Mount Holyoke College, I have completed a comprehensive review of the reparations payments literature, with regard to the United States, online and in books, articles, and academic journals.
I look forward to hearing about reparations payments that my research missed. Please e-mail me at email@example.com.
The act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury
1865: On January 12, in the midst of the Civil War, General William T. Sherman and U.S. secretary of war Edwin M. Stanton met with 20 Black leaders in Savannah Georgia. Four days later, General Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15 stating that Black people would receive an army mule and not more than forty acres on coastal plains of South Carolina and Georgia. By June, roughly 40,000 Blacks had settled on four hundred thousand acres of land before Confederate landowners, aided by the new Johnson administration, started taking back "their" land. (Secondary source: How To Be An Antiracist (2019) by Ibram X. Kendi, p.174; primary sources cited by Kendi: See The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1895-37-41); "Sherman's Special Field Orders, No.15", in The Empire State of the South: Georgia History in Documents and Essays, ed. Christopher C. Meyers (Macon, GA: Mercer University Press, 2008, 174.)
1866: Southern Homestead Act: "Ex-slaves were given 6 months to purchase land at reasonable rates without competition from white southerners and northern investors. But, owing to their destitution, few ex-slaves were able to take advantage of the program. The largest number that did were located in Florida, numbering little more than 3,000… The program failed."
1878: In 1853, Henrietta Wood was a free black woman living and laboring as a domestic worker in Cincinnati when she was lured across the Ohio River and into the slave state of Kentucky by a white man named Zebulon Ward. Ward sold her to slave traders, who took her to Texas, where she remained enslaved through the Civil War. Wood eventually returned to Cincinnati, and in 1870 sued Ward for $20,000 in damages and lost wages. In 1878, an all-white jury decided in Wood's favor, with Ward ordered to pay $2,500, perhaps the largest sum ever awarded by a court in the United States in restitution for slavery. ("The Ex-Slave Who Sued, and Won" by W. Caleb McDaniel, The New York Times, September 5, 2019.)
1927: The Shoshones were paid over $6 million for land illegally seized from them (although it was only half the appraised value of the land). (Race, Racism, and Reparations by J. Angelo Corlett, 2003, Cornell University Press, p. 170.)
1956: The Pawnees were awarded more than $1 million in a suit brought before the Indian Claims Commission for land taken from them in Iowa, Kansas, and Missouri. (Race, Racism, and Reparations by J. Angelo Corlett, 2003, Cornell University Press, p. 170.)
1962: Georgia restored many Cherokee landmarks, a newspaper plant, and other buildings in New Echota. It also repealed its repressive anti-Native American laws of 1830. (Race, Racism, and Reparations by J. Angelo Corlett, 2003, Cornell University Press, p. 170.)
1969: The Black Manifesto was launched in Detroit as one of the first calls for reparations in the modern era. Penned by James Forman, former SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) organizer, and released at the National Black Economic Development Conference, the manifesto demanded $500 million in reparations from predominantly White religious institutions for their role in perpetuating slavery. About $215,000 was raised from the Episcopalian and Methodist churches through rancorous deliberations that ultimately tore the coalition apart. ("Black and Blue Chicago Finds a New Way to Heal" by Yana Kunichoff and Sarah Macaraeg, YES Magazine, Spring 2017.)
The payments from 1971-1988 are taken from the booklet Black Reparations Now! 40 Acres, $50 Dollars, and a Mule, + Interest by Dorothy Benton-Lewis; and borrowed from N’COBRA (National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America).
1971: around $1 billion + 44 million acres of land: Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act.
1980: $81 million: Klamaths of Oregon. ("Spending Spree" by Dylan Darling, Herald and News (Klamath Falls, OR), June 21, 2005.)
1980: $105 million: Sioux of South Dakota for seizure of their land. (United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians, 448 U.S. 371 (1980).)
1985: $12.3 million: Seminoles of Florida. (see Racial Justice in America: A Reference Handbook by David B. Mustard, 2002, ABC-CLIO, p. 81.)
1985: $31 million: Chippewas of Wisconsin. (see Racial Justice in America: A Reference Handbook by David B. Mustard, 2002, ABC-CLIO, p. 81.)
1986: $32 million per 1836 Treaty: Ottawas of Michigan. (see Racial Justice in America: A Reference Handbook by David B. Mustard, 2002, ABC-CLIO, p. 81.)
1988: Civil Liberties Act of 1988: President Ronald Reagan signed a bill providing $1.2 billion ($20,000 a person) and an apology to each of the approximately 60,000 living Japanese-Americans who had been interned during World War II. Additionally, $12,000 and an apology were given to 450 Unangans (Aleuts) for internment during WWII, and a $6.4 million trust fund was created for their communities. ("U.S. pays restitution; apologizes to Unangan (Aleut) for WWII Internment," National Library of Medicine.)
1989*: Congressman John Conyers, D-Michigan, introduced bill H.R. 3745, which aimed to create the Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act. The bill was introduced "[to] address the fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery in the United States and the 13 American colonies between 1619 and 1865 and to establish a commission to study and consider a national apology and proposal for reparations for the institution of slavery, its subsequent de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination against African-Americans, and the impact of these forces on living African-Americans, to make recommendations to the Congress on appropriate remedies, and for other purposes." (Preamble)
1993*,**: U.S. Congress passed a joint resolution acknowledging and apologizing to Native Hawaiians the illegal United States–aided overthrow of the sovereign Hawaiian nation.
The reparations payments from 1994-2016, with the exception of Virginia Governor Mark Warner’s 2002 apology and Georgetown University’s actions, are taken from "Black and Blue Chicago Finds a New Way to Heal" by Yana Kunichoff and Sarah Macaraeg, YES Magazine, Spring 2017; and Long Overdue: The Politics of Racial Reparations: From 40 Acres to Atonement and Beyond by Charles P. Henry, 2007, NYU Press.
1994: The state of Florida approved $2.1 million for the living survivors of a 1923 racial pogrom that resulted in multiple deaths and the decimation of the Black community in the town of Rosewood. ("Rosewood Massacre: A Harrowing Tale of Racism and the Road toward Reparations" by Jessica Glenza, The Guardian, January 3, 2016.)
1995**: The Southern Baptists apologized to African American church members for the denomination’s endorsement of slavery.
1997**: President Bill Clinton apologized to the survivors of the U.S. government–sponsored syphilis tests in Tuskegee, Alabama.
1998: President Clinton signed into law the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Study Site Act, which officially acknowledges an 1864 attack by seven hundred U.S. soldiers on a peaceful Cheyenne village located in the territory of Colorado. Hundreds, largely women and children, were killed. The act calls for the establishment of a federally funded Historic Site at Sand Creek.
2001: The Oklahoma legislature passed and Governor Keating signed a bill to pay reparations for the destruction of the Greenwood, Oklahoma, community in 1921 in the form of low-income student scholarships in Tulsa; an economic development authority for Greenwood; a memorial; and the awarding of medals to the 118 known living survivors of the destruction of Greenwood.
2002**: Governor Mark Warner of Virginia issued a formal apology for the state’s decision to forcibly sterilize more than 8,000 of its residents. ("Va. Apologizes to the Victims of Sterilizations" by William Branigin, Washington Post, May 3, 2002.)
2005*,**: The U.S. Senate approved, by voice vote, S.R. 39, which called for the lawmakers to apologize to lynching victims, survivors, and their descendants, several whom were watching from the gallery.
2005: Virginia, five decades after ignoring Prince Edward County and other locales that shut down their public schools in support of segregation, is making a rare effort to confront its racist past, in effect apologizing and offering reparations in the form of scholarships. With a $1 million donation from the billionaire media investor John Kluge and a matching amount from the state, Virginia is providing up to $5,500 to any state resident who was denied a proper education when public schools shut down. So far, more than 80 students have been approved for the scholarships and the numbers are expected to rise. Several thousand are potentially eligible. (“A New Hope For Dreams Suspended By Segregation”, The New York Times, July 31, 2005 by Michael Janofsky.)
2008/2009*,**: U.S. House Resolution 194 and Senate Concurrent Resolution 26 made a formal apology to the African American community for "centuries of brutal dehumanization and injustices." Plus, there was an admission that "African Americans continue to suffer from the complex interplay between slavery and Jim Crow long after both systems were formally abolished through enormous damage and loss, both tangible and intangible, including the loss of human dignity."
2014: The state of North Carolina set aside $10 million for reparations payments to living survivors of the state’s eugenics program, which forcibly sterilized approximately 7,600 people. ("North Carolina Set To Compensate Forced Sterilization Victims" by Scott Neuman, NPR, July 25, 2013; "Families of NC Eugenics Victims No Longer Alive Still Have Shot at Compensation" by Anne Blythe, News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), March 17, 2017.)
2015: The City of Chicago signed into law an ordinance granting cash payments, free college education, and a range of social services to 57 living survivors of police torture (Burge Reparations). Explicitly defined as reparations, which totaled $5.5 million, the ordinance includes a formal apology from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a mandate to teach the broader public about the torture through a memorial and public school curriculum.
2016: Georgetown University has acknowledged that the school has profited from the sale of slaves and has "reconciled" by naming two buildings after African Americans and offer preferred admission to any descendants of slaves who worked at the university.
2016: The state of Virginia, one of more than 30 other states that practiced forced sterilizations, followed North Carolina’s lead and has since 2016 been awarding $25,000 to each survivor. ("Virginia Votes Compensation for Victims of its Eugenic Sterilization Program" by Jaydee Hanson, Center for Genetics and Society, March 5, 2015.)
2018: The Supreme Court, in a 4-4 deadlock, let stand a lower court's order to the state of Washington to make billions of dollars worth of repairs to roads, where the state had built culverts below road channels and structures in a way that prevented salmon from swimming through and reaching their spawning grounds, that had damaged the state’s salmon habitats and contributed to population loss. The case involved the Stevens Treaties, a series of agreements in 1854-55, in which tribes in Washington State gave up millions of acres of land in exchange for "the right to take fish." Implicit in the treaties, courts would later rule, was a guarantee that there would be enough fish for the tribes to harvest. Destroying the habitat reduces the population and thus violates these treaties. This decision directly affects the Swinomish Tribe. ("A Victory For A Tribe That’s Lost Its Salmon" by John Eligon, The New York Times, June 12, 2018.)
2019*: Senator Cory Booker, D-New Jersey, introduced bill S. 1083 (H.R. 40 Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act) in the Senate that would provide for a commission to study and report on the impact of slavery and discrimination against Black Americans and deliver a verdict on different proposals for reparations. The bill "is a way of addressing head-on the persistence of racism, white supremacy, and implicit racial bias in our country. It will bring together the best minds to study the issue and propose solutions that will finally begin to right the economic scales of past harms and make sure we are a country where all dignity and humanity is affirmed." (Press release, April 8, 2019.)
2019***: "Students at Georgetown University voted to increase their tuition to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved Africans that the Jesuits who ran the school sold nearly two centuries ago to secure its future." In a nonbinding student-led referendum, "the undergraduate student body voted to add a new fee of $27.20 per student per semester to their tuition bill, with the proceeds devoted to supporting education and health care programs in Louisiana and Maryland, where many of the 4,000 known living descendants of the 272 enslaved people now reside." ("Ge" by Adeel Hassan, The New York Times, April 12, 2019.)
2019: The Virginia Theological Seminary has earmarked $1.7 million to pay reparations to descendants of African Americans who were enslaved to work on their campus. ("Virginia Theological Seminary, With Deep Roots in Slavery, Sets Aside $1.7 Million to Pay Reparations" by Dara Sharif, The Root, September 10, 2019.)
2019: Princeton Theological Seminary announced a $27 million commitment for various initiatives to recognize how it benefited from black slavery. This is the largest monetary commitment by an educational institution. ("WWJD: Princeton Theological Seminary Announces $27 Million Reparations Plan" by Anne Branigin, The Root, October 24, 2019.)
2019: Georgetown University announced that it would raise about $400,000 a year to benefit descendants of the 272 enslaved people who were sold to aid the college 200 years ago, and the funds will be used to support community projects. While students would be involved in the initiative, they would not be required to pay extra fees; the money would be raised through voluntary donations from alumni, faculty, students, and philanthropists. ("Descendants of 272 Slaves Offered Aid By Georgetown" by Rachel Swarns, The New York Times, October 30, 2019.)
2019: The City Council of Evanston, Illinois, voted to allocate the first $10 million in tax revenue from the sale of recreational marijuana (which became legal in the state on January 1, 2020) to fund reparations initiatives that address the gaps in wealth and opportunity of black residents. "This week's City Council vote appears to have made Evanston the first municipal government in the nation to create and fund its own reparations program." Note: While Chicago created a program to compensate victims of police torture (see above), the reparations were not primarily race-based. (“Future Weed Revenue Will Fund Evanston’s New Reparations Program” by Jonah Meadows, Patch, November 27, 2019.)
* Congressional actions
** apologies from government institutions and other organizations
*** first college students to vote to financially support reparations
Some illustrative examples.
The payments from 1952-1990 are taken from the booklet Black Reparations Now! 40 Acres, $50 Dollars, and a Mule, + Interest by Dorothy Benton-Lewis.
1952: Germany: $822 million to Holocaust survivors: German Jewish Settlement. ("West Germany Signs 822 Million Dollar Reparations Pacts with Israel Govt. and Jewish Material Claims," JTA Daily News Bulletin, September 11, 1952.)
1988: Canada: 250,000 sq. miles of land: First Nations and Inuit. ("Canada to Give Indigenous People An Arctic Area the Size of Texas" by John F. Burns, The New York Times, September 6, 1988.)
1988: Canada: $230 million: Japanese Canadians. ("Ottawa Will Pay Compensation To Uprooted Japanese-Canadians" by John F. Burns, The New York Times, September 23, 1988.)
1990: Austria: $25 million: Holocaust Survivors. ("Austria to Pay $25 Million More in Support of Holocaust Survivors" by Reinhard Engel, JTA Daily News Bulletin, February 13, 1990.)
2014: France: More than 700 claims have been filed under an agreement between U.S. and France in which French officials have agreed to pay out $60 million for the deportations carried out by SNCF, France’s railway system. In exchange, the U.S. government agreed to ask courts to dismiss any lawsuits against SNCF or the French government. ("U.S. Begins Paying Out Reparations from France to Holocaust Survivors and Their Heirs" by Katherine Shaver, Washington Post, September 15, 2016.)
2015: Japan: $8.3 million to provide old-age care to Korean "Comfort Women" survivors plus a new apology. ("Japan and South Korea Settle Dispute Over Wartime 'Comfort Women'" by Choe Sang-hung, The New York Times, December 28, 2015.)
2016: France: The State Department has paid or approved 90 claims for a total of $11 million in reparations by France to former WWII prisoners who were carried to Nazi Death Camps in French trains—the first French reparations paid to Holocaust survivors in the U.S. ("U.S. Begins Paying Out Reparations from France to Holocaust Survivors and Their Heirs" by Katherine Shaver, Washington Post, September 15, 2016.)