Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The reparations movement has had a long and tumultuous history, as past attempts to obtain equitable relief have failed through common law, international law, legislation, and constitutional law. However, recent developments in these areas have pushed the reparations movement to the forefront. For example, Farmer-Paellmann v. Fleetboston Financial Corp. and similar 'suits have renewed the common law claim for reparations by identifying corporations that have kept record of their involvement in slavery and naming the corporations as concrete defendants. By naming corporate defendants, as compared to governmental or individual defendants, the suits have eliminated an enormous weakness in past efforts, namely the lack of an identifiable and culpable defendant. The World Conference Against Racism and passage of the International Criminal Court have propelled reparations debate among many countries and have demonstrated the growing intolerance for ongoing slavery, adding force to the reparations movement on the international law front. Legislatively, Representative John Conyers continues to endorse H.R. 40, and both the state of California and the city of Chicago, Illinois have passed legislation forcing firms to report their past involvement in slavery, undoubtedly aiding the common-law class-action claims. These developments evidence that the reparations movement is becoming more widespread. Although past claims may have failed for lack of coordination, the current litigation, pending legislation, and international developments show that the world is increasingly united in its demand for a reparations resolution.

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