Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Repairing the Past: New Efforts in the Reparations Debate in America, 38 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 279 (2003).
Abstract: This article attempts to explain why the asserted distinctions between various types of reparations lawsuits are overstated. The reparations debate, in the U.S. and globally, has gained momentum in recent years, and it will only grow in significance over time. The claim that the U.S. owes a debt for the enslavement and segregation of African Americans has had historical currency for over 150 years. Occasionally, the call for repayment of the debt for slavery has reached a fever pitch, particularly in the post-Civil War period. The demand for reparations has coincided with other civil rights strategies, reaching a national stage during the resolute leadership of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The reparations movement has experienced ebbs and flows through periods of both forceful repression and abject depression. Today, in the U.S. and worldwide, we again face one of those historically significant moments when the momentum for reparations efforts rises and arguments that seemed morally and legally unfeasible reemerge with renewed political vigor and legal vitality. The number of reparations lawsuits and legislative initiatives at the local and state level is unprecedented. A variety of lawsuits are currently on file in various state and federal courts around the country. Focusing solely on reparations for African Americans, suits are on file in Illinois, New York, Texas, New Jersey, Louisiana, California and Oklahoma. Legislation abounds as well. States and municipalities have passed at least four statutes addressing reparations for African Americans, most notably in Rosewood, Florida, but also in California, Oklahoma and Chicago, Illinois. These legal and legislative initiatives raise complementary, and in some cases, conflicting issues. But it cannot be denied that there is a vital and compelling need for African American reparations.