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The Economics of Reparations for African Americans

The practice of slavery lingers as a giant scar on American history. While slavery is no longer legal today, African Americans continue to face repercussions from this "peculiar institution." Contemporary discrimination and the legal segregation of the past combined with slavery to steal a massive amount of black labor over time. Some have estimated that taking into account lost interest over time, the amount of black labor lost could equal up to $24 trillion in today's dollars. However, the fact remains that no living white American has owned slaves, voted for the Jim Crow laws, or assisted the initial creation of segregated schools for black Americans. Does this fact in any way eliminate culpability? If reparations are in order, how much should be offered in return for past transgressions? Finally, how would such a substantial payment affect the American economy?

Coming to CMC to discuss the economic viewpoint of reparations for African Americans is Dr. William Darity, the Cory C. Boshamer Professor of Economics and Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Darity has done extensive research on this subject and is the author of The Black Underclass: Critical Essays on Race and Unwantedness (1994) and Persistent Disparity: Race and Economic Inequality in the United States Since 1945 (1998).

A member of numerous economic associations, Darity received his Ph.D. in Economics in 1978 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has also written scores of journal articles and has edited several books, including the two-volume work Economics and Discrimination (1995).