The Case for Reparations

This session participants will explore the enduring role of New Deal and postwar public policy in recreating racial inequality in the United States. What role did public policy play in shaping racial inequality in the last hundred years, how enduring have those effects been, and how might the nation address them?


Through the reading, video, and discussion, participants will be able to:

  • Articulate the historical relationship between “white democracy” and “black plunder”;
  • Explain the reasons for and results of separate housing markets in the 20th century;
  • Explain and evaluate the debate over black reparations in the United States.

Discussion Materials:

Discussion Questions:

  • What public policies and private practices created unequal wealth and “white flight” in the 20th century United States?
  • What does the 1957 film reveal about racial attitudes in the postwar United States?
  • What does Coates think reparations is important, and why does he say it has been a non-starter in the United States?

Some Additional Resources:

  • Ira Katznelson, When Affirmative Action Was White: An Untold History of Racial Inequality in the Twentieth Century (New York: W.W. Norton, 2005).
  • Race – The Power of an Illusion: The Genesis of Discriminatory Housing Policies:
  • Kevin Kruse, White Flight: Atlanta and the Making of Modern Conservatism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005).
  • Robert Self, American Babylon: Race and the Struggle for Postwar Oakland (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003).
  • Thomas J. Sugrue, Origins of the Urban Crisis: Race and Inequality in Postwar Detroit (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).
  • Lisa Levenstein, A Movement Without Marches: African American Women and the Politics of Poverty in Postwar Philadelphia (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010).
  • The Fair Housing Justice Center, “Matter of Place”
  • PBSSlavery By Another Name
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates on Segregation, Housing Discrimination, and “The Case for Reparations”


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