Emory joins national Mellon Foundation research project to address racial reparations

Emory University

Emory University. Wikimedia Commons.

Emory University will be part of a $5 million grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation awarded to the University of Michigan’s Center for Social Solutions and multiple higher education partners as part of the Foundation’s Just Futures initiative.


The project, which will span three years, creates and leverages a national network of college and university-based humanities scholars working in partnerships with community-based organizations to develop research-informed reparation plans for each location.


Emory will be among the network of nine​ ​geographically dispersed and organizationally different colleges and universities that will involve community fellows as well as local organizations in a collaborative public history reckoning designed to offer tangible suggestions for community-based racial reparations solutions.


“Crafting Democratic Futures: Situating Colleges and Universities in Community-based Reparations Solutions” emerges from the Center for Social Solutions’ focus on slavery and its aftermath, and is informed by three generations of humanistic scholarship and what that scholarship suggests for all seeking just futures. The Center is led by former Emory Provost Earl Lewis.


“This important grant from the Mellon Foundation supports and acknowledges Emory’s Department of African American Studies’ dual mission of academic excellence harnessed to the needs of the community,” says historian Carol Anderson, Charles Howard Candler Professor of African American Studies (AAS) and department chair, who will help lead the project.


“Our scholars will be working with community partners in Atlanta to listen and assess the toll that slavery, Jim Crow and its modern iteration have taken on the Black community. They will then work toward crafting a series of policy recommendations for reparations to address those losses,” Anderson says. “Healing requires accountability. The point is to thrive, not just survive.” 


The team of scholars will include Emory College faculty members Vanessa Siddle Walker, Samuel Candler Dobbs Professor of African American Studies, and AAS assistant professors Janeria Easley and Jessica Stewart, with support from Department of History doctoral students Camille Goldmon and Aleo Pugh.


Reparations refers to compensation, which may include a national apology; educational, housing and health care programs; and financial redress from the U.S. government to Native Americans for genocide and African Americans for the detrimental effects of slavery and beyond. The question of reparations for the descendants of enslaved African peoples in the Americas, and especially the United States, had — until recently — been part of a smaller effort seeking a broader audience, lingering on the other side of what is possible until the late 20th century.


The effort and activities of this project will span the eastern half of the United States, north and south, and have representation in the Midwest and Central North regions. The success of this pilot will create scalable models for university-community partnerships which focus on social justice, specifically addressing local nuanced reparations solutions.


Other partners include Spelman College; Carnegie Mellon University; Rutgers University-Newark; Concordia College in Minnesota; Connecticut College; Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia; Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina; and the Council of Independent Colleges.

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