Corrective Justice and Reparations for Black Slavery

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

Canadian Journal of Law & Jurisprudence


Over the last two decades, legal scholarship has been catching up with the more than century old calls by black Americans for reparations. Tax scholar Boris Bittker (in)famously launched the viability of black reparations into legal scholarship with his now classic monograph, The Case for Black Reparations. However, it would take more than twenty years for mainstream legal scholarship to take up the robust and wide-ranging set of questions raised by the possibility of reparations for American slavery. In the late 1990s private law scholars leapt into the debate, discussing unjust enrichment and torts-based models of black reparations. While these scholars made a variety of distinct arguments, collectively, their model rested on the contention that America had wrongfully expropriated the labor of generations of enslaved African Americans and the result had been systemic unjust enrichment, or a species of mass torts. Grounded in various conceptions of corrective justice, these models conceive black reparations as a set of claims that would be litigated through the courts. Over the ensuing two decades, the private law model has become somewhat of an outlier in reparations discussions, largely set aside in favor of broader, more explicitly political approaches.


Corrective Justice, Black Slavery, Reparations

Publication Citation

Adrienne D. Davis, Corrective Justice and Reparations for Black Slavery, 34 Canadian J.L. & Juris. 329 (2021)