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Volume 18
Number 2


Editor’s Comment

Reparations for Slavery:
Misunderstanding A Complex History

The lead article in the current issue of THE ATLANTIC is The Case For Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coats. Much of Coats's focus is how African-Americans were treated in the years after slavery came to an end. He calls for a national reckoning with the inextricable relationship between democracy and slavery.

"A nation outlives its generations," he writes. "We were not there when Washington crossed the Delaware, but Emanuel Gottlieb Lentzes rendering has meaning to us. Reparations would mean the end of scarfing hot dogs on the Fourth of July while denying the facts of our heritage. Reparations would mean the end of yelling patriotism while waving a Confederate flag."

Coats's recommended prescription is a bill that Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) has been trying to advance for a quarter of a century. That legislation would mandate the study of racial injustice and the advancement of proposals for reparations. Thus far, Congress has not been prepared to pass such legislation.

In June, 2009, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution apologizing for slavery, making way for a joint congressional resolution. The Senate apology followed a similar one passed the year before by the House. One key difference is that the Senate version explicitly deals with the long-standing issue of whether slavery descendants are entitled to reparations, saying that the resolution may not be used to support such claims. The House revisited its resolution to conform to the Senate version.

                     INSIDE STORIES

  • Color-Blind Society4
  • Attacks on Black Conservatives6
  • Religions Role8
  • State of Race Relations9
  • Flat Tax11
  • New Yorks Mayor13
  • Criminal Justice Reform15
  • Jon Utley17
  • Russell Kirk19
  • Ken Tomlinson20

Charles Ogletree, a Harvard law professor who has championed reparations, was consulted on the Senate resolution and supported it. He stated that it is not...

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