Discussions about the atonement for the enslavement of African Americans have a long history in the United States, and efforts toward reparations for slavery and racial discrimination have moved forward in some places in recent years. In 2021, Evanston, Illinois became the first city in the U. S. to create a reparations plan for its African American residents, and California in the same year set up the nation’s first state level reparations task force. Earlier this year, Harvard University created a $100 million “Legacy of Slavery” fund to allow scholars and students to examine the university’s connections to slavery.
Americans view the prospect of reparations mostly negatively. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that 3 in 10 U. S. adults say descendants of slaves should be repaid in some way, such as given land or money. About 7 in 10 (68%) say they should not be repaid. Views of reparations for slavery vary widely by race and ethnicity between blacks and whites. Around three-quarters of black adults (77%) say the descendants of people enslaved in the U.S. should be repaid in some way, while 18% of whites say the same.
There are also notable differences by partisan affiliation. Among Democrats and independents, views were mixed; 48% say descendants of enslaved people should be repaid in some way, while 49% say they shouldn’t. By comparison, only 8% of Republicans and GOP leaners say they should and 91% say they should not.
When it comes to age, younger adults are in favor of reparations, 45% that is, while older adults 65 and older are opposed. When Americans are asked about the legacy of slavery and its effect on African Americans, 58% of the overall public say that it affects them a great deal. 4 in 10 American adults say the legacy of slavery has not much or not at all affected the position of African Americans in the country today.
In the Center’s 2021 survey, the 30% of Americans who favored reparations were also asked about the institutions and individuals who bear responsibility for repayment. They were presented with four options:
1.) The U.S. federal government
2.) Busines and banks that profited from slavery
3.) Colleges and universities that benefited from slavery
4.) Descendants of families that engaged in the slave trade
Three-quarters of reparations supporters say the federal government has all or most of the responsibility to repay descendants of enslaved people. A smaller share, though still a majority, say businesses and banks should pay (65%) have all or most of the responsibility. Fewer say the same about colleges and universities that benefited from slavery (53%) and descendants of families that engaged in the slave trade (44%).
Reparations supporters were also asked how helpful the following forms of repayment would be: educational scholarships, financial assistance fo starting a business or improving a home, or cash payments. These adults arew most likely to say educational scholarships would be very or extremely helpful (82%), followed by financial assistance with businesses (75%), finanacial assistance with home bvuying or remodeling (73%) and cash payments (57%).