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Forty Acres and a Lawsuit: Legal Claims for Reparations

Race, Ethnicity and Law

ISBN: 978-1-78714-604-4, eISBN: 978-1-78714-603-7

ISSN: 1521-6136

Publication date: 25 May 2017

Abstract

Purpose

This chapter sets out a descriptive account of the various legal claims for reparations, including the theories involved and the history of reparations lawsuits. It describes the major reparations cases, the arguments used in these cases, and the court decisions. It also discusses the evolution of legal theories for reparations as well as other attempts to secure compensation.

Methodology/approach

I examine the case law and the significant court rulings, as well as the discussion within secondary literature regarding these legal claims. I also examine other reparations advocacy approaches, including H.R. 40 and official apologies.

Findings

Reparations lawsuits have been brought against both government and private defendants, employing both tort and unjust enrichment theories. However, these suits have failed due to a variety of legal hurdles, including statutes of limitations, standing, and causation. The failure of reparations lawsuits illustrates the limitations of the legal system in addressing mass harms.

Originality/value

This chapter summarizes in relatively brief and generalist-accessible form the history and current status of legal claims for reparations.

Keywords

Citation

Wenger, K.D. (2017), "Forty Acres and a Lawsuit: Legal Claims for Reparations", Race, Ethnicity and Law (Sociology of Crime, Law and Deviance, Vol. 22), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 79-91. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1521-613620170000022007

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017 Emerald Publishing Limited