Legacies links for January 23, 2023: trillions of dollars (and other ways to reckon the cost of slavery)

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On January 19, 2023, Maryland Gov. Wes Moore took the oath of office on abolitionist Frederick Douglass’s bible. Moore is just the third Black man to be elected governor of a state. Image source: CBS News Baltimore
  • Yosef Bonaparte, “Estimating the Slavery Reparation and the US Economy Post Abolishing Slavery,” posted to SSRN (January 15, 2023): LINK. The author, an economist, “estimate[s] the overall reparation for 246 years of slavery [as] … at least at $20 trillion, where $6 trillion are due by the British and the rest of $14 trillion on the United States government.”
  • Tasseli McKay, “What the US Mass Incarceration Regime Costs Black Women,” Nonprofit Quarterly (January 19, 2023): LINK. “[S]ociologist Tasseli McKay offers a ‘cradle-to-grave accounting’ of mass incarceration’s harms by tallying its social and economic costs. McKay finds that ‘the damages that can be reasonably estimated from current evidence total a staggering $13.19 trillion’—a figure comparable to the total value of the US’ Black-White racial wealth gap.” Also see this recent paper about the impact of mass incarceration on Black men and their sons (no economic analysis here).
  • Rafael Oliveira, “Benefactor’s family demands refund after U. Richmond removes name from law school,” The College Fix (January 19, 2023): LINK. “The University of Richmond [a CIC member college] recently removed the name of T.C. Williams, an early benefactor, from its law school because of his alleged ownership of slaves in the 19th century. … [His descendants] argue the university should refund Williams’ previously donated money to the institution.”
  • Sharon Stein, “Beyond Apologies,” Inside Higher Ed (January 19, 2023): LINK. The author argues that “[colleges and] universities must do more to confront their complicity in slavery and colonization, moving beyond apologies and toward restitution and repair.”
  • Pamela Wood, “As Wes Moore began his first day as Maryland governor, he acknowledged the state’s shameful history with slavery,” Baltimore Banner (January 18, 2023): LINK. Moore, who is just the third Black man elected to be governor of a state, began his inauguration day at the Kunta Kinte-Alex Haley memorial in Annapolis before being sworn in at a state house built (in part) by enslaved labor. (He also took the oath of office on Frederick Douglass’s Bible.)
  • Jon Meacham, “Can the Country Come to Terms With Its Original Sin?,” New York Times (January 17, 2023): LINK. In this thoughtful review of Edward J. Larson’s American Inheritance: Liberty and Slavery in the Birth of a Nation, 1765-1795 (W.W. Norton, 2023), Meacham focuses on “a tragic truth: that influential white Americans knew—and understood—that slavery was wrong and liberty was precious, but chose not to act according to that knowledge and that understanding. And it was a choice: one made for convenience. Slavery and racism were not externally imposed forces that lay beyond human control. They were, rather, economic, political and cultural constructs that served the purposes of the powerful—in this case, white people—and because of this, they stood for centuries.”