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Should Reparations Be Paid to African Americans?

By John Hamilton, Activist Staff
On April 15, 2015

On Wednesday, April 8, UCBA’s History Department hosted its final lecture event of this academic year, called “Reparations for African Americans?” 

In this lecture assistant professors of history, Dr. Robert Gioielli and Dr. Matthew Norman gave a discussion about what led to the concept of giving members of the African American community reparations for the years of slavery and oppression that they faced in the last 150 years. 

This lecture was inspired by an article published in The Atlantic Monthly, in June 2014, by Ta-Nehisi Coates called “The Case for Reparations.”  In the article Coates discusses, “Two hundred fifty years of slavery.  Ninety years of Jim Crow.  Sixty years of separate but equal.  Thirty-five years of racist housing policy.”  Continuing from the subtitle, Coates declared, “Until we reckon with our compounding moral debts, America will never be whole.”

UCBA History Professors Rob Gioielli (left) and Matthew Norman (right) during their April 8 presentation on reparations for African Americans.  (Photo by John Hamilton)

The lecture started off with Dr. Norman talking about the events following the American Civil War and how originally freed slaves from the American South would be receiving forty acres and a mule.  But then-President Andrew Johnson over-ruled that idea and gave the land back to the original owners. 

“So many of the freed slaves,” Dr. Norman pointed out, “went back to working for their former owners.” 

After Dr. Norman’s discussion of 19th century events, Dr. Gioielli went on to talk about what happened in the 20th century.  The main focus of his discussion was the events that took place during the 1960s in Chicago, when many African-American residents on the West side were subjected to unfair rent charges and were denied home ownership. 

Next, the professors played a short video featuring interviews with prominent activists during that time, including Clyde Ross. 

When Dr. Gioielli finished his segment, a discussion then started with attendees engaging in a talk about what should be done with reparations and whether or not it can work. 

Many participants brought up how they approved the idea, while others talked about the side effects of it and what the limits are. 

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