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A member of the December 12th Movement holds a Pan-African flag before a rally for reparations at the African Burial Ground National Monument on July 23, 2021, in New York City.
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

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Reparations could heal America

How the US can create a better future by reconciling the past.

How have slavery and Jim Crow policies compounded into injustices like housing inequality, health disparities, generational wealth gaps, and a fractured society? In this multimedia project, Vox explores how reparations have worked globally and what they might look like for Black Americans in the United States.

Vox Conversations: 40 Acres

This four-part Vox Conversations series, hosted by Vox race and policy reporter Fabiola Cineas, explores what reparations might look like in America. Listen to the episodes below, and follow Vox Conversations on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

The original promise
The history of the fight for reparations in America. Though reparations came to the forefront during the 2020 election in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, activists have been fighting for repayment for slavery for decades. Fabiola talks with Nkechi Taifa, the founder and director of the Reparation Education Project.

$14 trillion and no mules
Paying the price. One of the typical questions asked during conversations about reparations is how to pay for them. Fabiola talks with economist William “Sandy” Darity and folklorist Kirsten Mullen about how reparations could be executed. The husband/wife team lays out a comprehensive framework in their book, From Here to Equality: Reparations for Black Americans in the Twenty-First Century, for who would qualify, and how the federal government would afford the $14 trillion price tag.

The old Jim Crow
Why slavery? Marxist scholar Adolph Reed Jr. argues that Jim Crow — not enslavement — is the defining experience for Black Americans today. Reed recounts his childhood in the segregation-era South in his book The South: Jim Crow and Its Afterlives. Fabiola speaks with Reed about his experience, his argument that reparations aren’t necessarily a healing balm, and what policies and resources are needed to create a more equitable society.

Reaching reconciliation
What good is piecemeal reparations? From Georgetown University, where school leadership once sold enslaved people, to Evanston, Illinois, where redlining kept Black residents out of homeownership, institutions and local governments are attempting to take reparations into their own hands. But do these small-scale efforts detract from the broader call for reparations from the federal government?

Fabiola talks with Indigenous philanthropist Edgar Villanueva, founder of the Decolonizing Wealth Project and creator of the Case for Reparations fund, about the reparatory justice efforts underway across the country and the role that individual donors might be able to play in reparations. Fabiola also speaks with activist Kavon Ward, who worked to restore Bruce’s Beach, waterfront land in California, to the descendants of Black families who were pushed off the land by eminent domain. (Ward’s work was funded by Villanueva’s organization.) Ward and Fabiola discuss how jurisdictions are repaying Black people for what was taken from them — and if that repayment can be considered reparations at all.

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Vox & Capital B

The medical system has failed Black Americans for centuries. Could reparations be the answer?

Reparations could have tangible health benefits for Black Americans. Read the feature article made in partnership with Capital B, here.

Missing Chapter: What New Zealand can teach the U.S. about reparations

When the British colonized New Zealand, they left the country’s indigenous Māori population with nearly no land; war and new diseases they introduced to the islands nearly killed off all Māori. Nevertheless, Māori managed to survive — and for decades they protested against the British crown’s pillaging. By the 1970s, the crown could no longer ignore Māori’s mass uprisings rallying for justice; it was forced to respond and established a tribunal to investigate how it violated Māori sovereignty over New Zealand.

Since 1995, the British crown has been engaged in a process of land settlements with Māori — giving the tribes back land and cash, and offering apologies for their historical and modern-day thefts. By putting billions of dollars into this reparations program since the mid-1990s, New Zealand is leading the world with this kind of atonement and redress.

In this special episode of Missing Chapter, Vox reporter Fabiola Cineas traveled across New Zealand to explore how Māori are using the compensation to build a new future for themselves — and to investigate what the US can learn about reparations from their story.

Read the feature story: New Zealand’s Māori fought for reparations — and won

This series on reparations is made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to Canopy Collective, an independent initiative under fiscal sponsorship of Multiplier. All Vox reporting is editorially independent. Views expressed are not necessarily those of Canopy Collective or Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Canopy Collective is dedicated to ending and healing from systemic racialized violence. Multiplier is a nonprofit that accelerates impact for initiatives that protect and foster a healthy, sustainable, resilient, and equitable world. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is committed to improving health and health equity in the United States.

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