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Repair
Redeeming the Promise of Abolition

A compelling case for reparations based on powerful, first person accounts detailing both the horrors of slavery and past promises made to its survivors.

Katherine Franke makes a powerful case for reparations for Black Americans by amplifying the stories of formerly enslaved people and calling for repair of the damage caused by the legacy of American slavery. Repair invites readers to explore the historical context for reparations, offering a detailed account of the circumstances that surrounded the emancipation of enslaved Black people in two unique contexts, the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Davis Bend, Mississippi, Jefferson Davis’s former plantation. Through these two critical historical examples, Franke unpacks intergenerational, systemic racism and white privilege at the heart of American society and argues that reparations for slavery are necessary, overdue and possible.

Katherine Franke is one of the nation’s leading scholars writing on law, racial justice, and African American history. Her first book was Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality. She is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University and chair of the board of Trustees of the Center for Constitutional Rights. 

Reviews
  • "For more than one hundred and fifty years African Americans have made demands that the federal government redress and repair the catastrophic social, emotional, political and economic consequences of slavery in this nation. In this new essential book, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition, legal scholar Katherine Franke engages the original debates concerning the conditions upon which newly freed Black people would rebuild their lives after slavery. Franke powerfully illustrates the repercussions of the unfilled promise of land redistribution and other broken promises that consigned African Americans to another one hundred years of second-class citizenship. Franke passionately argues that the continuation of those vast disparities between Black and white people in U.S. society—a product of slavery itself—means that the struggle for reparations remains a relevant demand in the current movements for racial justice."

    –Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

     

    "Repair revisits the revolutionary era of Reconstruction, that “brief moment in the sun” in the words of W.E. B. Du Bois, when the redistribution of land and wealth as recompense for unrequited toil could have secured genuine freedom for Black people rather than a future of racial inequality, exploitation, marginalization, and precarity.  To being the road to repair, Katherine Franke makes a persuasive case for reparations as at least a first step toward creating the conditions for genuine freedom and justice, not only for African Americans but for all of us."

    –Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

     
     
    "Katherine Franke argues for a type of Black freedom that is material and felt—freedom that is more than a poetic nod to claims of American moral comeuppance. Repair: Redeeming The Promise of Abolition is a critical text for our times that demands an honest reckoning with the consequences, and afterlife, of the sin that was chattel enslavement. It is bold call for reparations and costly atonement.” 
     
    –Darnell L. Moore, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America
     
      
    "Katherine Franke is consistently one of the sharpest, most conscientious thinkers in progressive politics. In a time defined by crisis and conflict, Katherine is among that small number of thinkers whom I find indispensable.”
     
    –Jelani Cobb, New Yorker columnist and author, The Substance of Hope