Making Good on the Broken Promise of Reparations

In fact, Union military and political leaders who were directly responsible for stewarding black people from enslavement into their new lives as freed people felt strongly that slavery was an atrocity and a theft that required compensation. Reparations were understood as both a remedy for the rape, torture, death, and destruction of millions of human souls, and a measure that recognized that freedom without material resources would lock black people into second-class status for generations to come. Promises made to freed people in 1865 that they would receive land—as reparations for their enslavement and the leg-up they needed to start their lives anew—were never honored.

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