And Justice for All! Teaching the Reparations Debate

James R Moore


One of the most significant and controversial issues facing the United States as it prepares for the 2020 election cycle centers around reparations—whether the United States should compensate African Americans for slavery, Jim Crow segregation, racial inequalities, and persistent racial discrimination—and the numerous moral, political, social, and cultural arguments for and against reparations. The disputes surrounding reparations are not new in American politics; in fact, they have been present since the end of the Civil War in 1865, and have fluctuated in the public consciousness based on grassroots movements, media attention, legal opinions, and academia’s interests in the most effective manner to achieve racial justice. The debate regarding reparations is enormously complex and fraught competing ideologies, contradictory visions for achieving racial justice, and is an emotionally charged issue. Nevertheless, secondary students should be taught multiple perspectives regarding reparations—including the historical events that precipitated the current focus on racial and social justice—and have access to competing arguments, facts, statistics, and opinions to construct their own views. In the United States, the reparations debate is controversial and is a currently important topic in education and politics. This topic is ideal for social studies education because it allows students to engage in a powerful moral, political, economic, and social issue with profound historical and contemporary implications. This article will examine the reparations debate and propose several instructional methods and activities to teach this debate in a pedagogically sound manner that advances civic participation without indoctrination.  


reparations, slavery, segregation, slavery; equality;reparations; racial justice; property;

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