Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Latest on Brown University's Slavery and Justice Committee

Brown_university This fall, Brown University's steering committee on slavery and justice will release its report.  Here at propertyprof, we've been talking a lot about these issues, including the Wilmington Riot Commission's report, the controversy over renaming streets (particularly Penny Lane of Beatles' fame), the memory of the civil rights movement in McComb, Mississippi, restitution of art, and reparations more generally.  I thought you might enjoy this comprehensive article from the Brown Daily Herald. 

Here's a taste of the article, including some quotations from me:

"I think the reparations movement is going away very rapidly from individual payments," Brophy said. "It's focusing on cultural issues. How do we remember (or not remember) the connection of great institutions -- Brown, Harvard, Yale, the University of Alabama -- as well as corporations, to slavery?"

Eric Miller, assistant professor of law at Saint Louis University School of Law, said the movement for reparations represents the "quintessential American virtue of self-reliance," as Americans demand an investigation and some form of restoration.

Miller, [Brown Professor James] Campbell and Brophy all view this shift to a broader cultural outlook as a significant development in the national reparations movement.

Campbell said the committee's own approach to the issue - which has included events on the sex slave trade, South African apartheid, genocide in Darfur and the Native American experience in Southeastern New England - demonstrates this breadth of historical and cultural perspective.

"If you look at the programs that we've sponsored over the last couple years, it's pretty clear that there are lots of different ways of thinking about repair beyond simply the narrow question of monetary reparations," Campbell said.

As an in-depth inquiry into a university's history, Brown's committee has largely been hailed as a success by academics and historians. . .  .  It has reached beyond the Van Wickle Gates and engaged other communities in its research and efforts to spur dialogue.

We'll certainly be on the case, as soon as the report comes out.

By the way, I've got a lot to say on Ben's last post on how we approach distributions of property that are inequitable to start with--but it's going to take me a while to get that post up.  Of course, Johnson v. McIntosh has a lot to say on this, as does The Antelope and debate over the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

Endnote: The image of Brown's University Hall, which was built in part using slave labor, is courtesy of our friends at Brown.

UPDATE:  And now the New York Times digital edition has picked up Alison Nguyen's important story.

Alfred L. Brophy


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