Daily Skimm: William Darity Jr. and Thai Jones on the debate over reparations

professional headshot of William Darity

June 19, 2023


The idea of reparations for slavery isn’t new. In fact, it dates back to the end of the Civil War. But in recent years, it’s picked up steam: In 2021, Evanston, Illinois became the first city to approve reparations for Black Americans. Last year, Harvard announced it would commit $100 million for an endowed “Legacy of Slavery” fund. And later this month, California’s Reparations Task Force will present its recs to the state legislature.

With efforts springing up across the country, we spoke to William Darity Jr., a Duke University professor and economist, and Thai Jones, a curator for American History at Columbia University, to learn more. Here’s what they had to say…

Q: Reparations are often framed as financial payments, but they can extend beyond that. How do you see reparations?

Darity: African American reparations must prioritize extinguishing the racial wealth gap. The black-white wealth disparity is the best economic indicator of the cumulative, intergenerational damages of the enslavement of Black Americans in the US. We know, according to a 2019 survey, the average difference in Black and white household net worth is about $840,900 — or about $350,000 per person. Therefore, I estimate it’ll require at least $14 trillion to conduct African American reparations.