“More Than a Check: African Americans and the Politics of Reparations”

Hampshire College – Prof. Chris Tinson

Description: Racial reparations have been and continue to be one of the most explosive contemporary issues. Some argue that this country’s history of enslavement renders some form of reparations necessary to the quest for social justice; that understanding reparations is central to honest conversations about race and racism. Others argue that reparations for past injustices such as slavery are unfair. Still others refuse to discuss the topic altogether. This course is concerned with the historic and contemporary reparations debate as it pertains to African Americans. We will pay close attention to how historians, artists, legal scholars, political scientists, grassroots community activists and legislators have approached this issue, and gauge its relevance in our “post-racial” moment. This course is suitable for first year distribution requirements.

More Than a Check: African Americans and the Politics of Reparations Syllabus – pdf


*To gain a historical understanding of reparations claims by African descendants

*To identify the social, cultural, political and economic aspects of reparations

*To illustrate the diversity of opinions with regard to reparations

*To assess the reparations debate within contemporary struggles for social justice


1. Mary Frances Berry, My Face is Black is True: Callie House and the Struggle for Ex-Slave Reparations (New York: Vintage, 2005).

2. Ronald Walters, The Price of Racial Reconciliation (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2008).

3. Raymond Winbush, ed., Should America Pay? Slavery and the Raging Debate on Reparations (New York: Amistad, 2003).

Documentary and Film:

Banished, dir. Marco Williams, prod. California Newsreel (2007) Rosewood, dir. John Singleton (1997) Recommended: Joy DeGruy Leary, “Post-traumatic slave syndrome” (2004)

Audio—NPR Reparations Coverage:


Recommended Books:

*Robert L. Allen, Black Awakening in Capitalist America
Gloria Anzaldua and Cherrie Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back
Herbert Aptheker, American Negro Slave Revolts
Grace Lee Boggs, Living for Change
*Alfred Brophy, Reparations: Pros and Cons (Free E-book accessible thru the library Web site)
Aime Cesaire, Discourse on Colonialism
Frantz Fanon, Black Skin, White Masks
C.L.R. James, The Black Jacobins
Audrey Lorde, Sister Outsider
Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism
*Randall Robinson, The Debt
*Walter Rodney, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa
Penny Von Eschen, Rage Against Empire
Robert F. Williams, Negroes with Guns
Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
(And anything by bell hooks, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Paulo Freire.)
*Books that directly pertain to this course


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