This chapter builds on Chapter 2’s discussion of reparations as a remedy for slavery and anti-Black racism committed as a crime of the powerful and situated within state crime/state-corporate crime via a critical overview and analysis of reparations litigation to date.1 The Appendix provides a timeline of reparations cases while this chapter contains a brief history of the reparations movement’s litigation attempts and examines the key themes and issues explored within litigation attempts and court judgements.
While it is beyond the scope of this chapter to examine all reparations litigation in depth, an overview of the scope and nature of reparations litigation is provided, supplemented with a discussion of four key cases. These cases illustrate issues arising from claims that have profit or benefit from slavery at their core as well, but some of the selected cases also deal with Jim Crow-era harms as well as ongoing injustice and anti-Black racism. For example, numerous lawsuits were filed against modern American companies in the early 2000s seeking reparations for the companies’ alleged complicity in slavery. The full extent to which the companies were complicit in or benefitted from slavery had arguably only recently come to light prompting a series of lawsuits. These cases were consolidated in federal court in Chicago, Illinois into In re African-American Slave Descendants Litigation, 375 F. Supp. 2d 721 (N.D. Ill. 2005). A broader case, Cato v United States (1995) had earlier sought damages from the US relating to the enslavement of African Americans and subsequent discrimination against them.
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