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University of California, Riverside

UCR Newsroom

Responding to Historical Injustice

Reparations for Slavery is Topic of UC Riverside Conference

Philosophy Department Organizes “Coming to Terms with the Past: Responding to Historical Injustice"

(February 26, 2003)

Philosophers, lawyers and political scientists from all over the U.S. will gather at UC Riverside Friday, Feb. 28 and Saturday, March 1 for a conference that will take a balanced look at the call for reparations for slavery in the United States within the context of other well-known government efforts to redeem past suffering.

“Questions of how governments deal with difficult pasts -- whether through money, apology, uncovering the truth of what happened or criminal trials -- have become a priority on many national and international agendas,” said UC Riverside Philosophy Professor Georgia Warnke, (WARN-Key) one of the conference organizers.

She listed such examples as the commissions of national inquiry in Latin America, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, the International Criminal Tribunals established by the United Nations for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and the historians' debate in Germany about its Nazi past.

UC Riverside’s 13th Annual Philosophy Conference, which begins during Black History Month, will reflect the best arguments on both sides of the issue.

“A fundamental premise of the reparations movement is that the attempt to build a just multiculturalism in the United States requires that we think seriously, not only about our future, but about our past as well,” Warnke said. “Reparations critics say that to do so is to embrace victimhood in a way that succeeds only in limiting the vision of what a diverse and multicultural society can be.”

The issue is not just a philosophical tug-of-war, but a current issue in front of the nation’s court system. In March of 2002, a group of lawyers headed by Harvard Law Professor, Charles Ogletree filed a federal class-action lawsuit in New York on behalf of African-American descendants of slaves. The lawsuit seeks compensation from FleetBoston, Aetna, CSX and other to-be-named companies for profits allegedly earned through the slave trade and slave labor.

Conference speakers include respected scholars with a variety of viewpoints on the issue of reparations for slavery:

• Bernard Boxill, Professor of Philosophy at the University of North Carolina. He works in the areas of social and political philosophy and African American philosophy. He is well known for his work in critical race theory and has written and lectured on the reparations issue.

• Robert Fullinwider, Senior Research Scholar, Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, University of Maryland. He is an expert on affirmative action issues and multicultural education and, most recently, the editor of Civil Society, Democracy and Civic Renewal. He has also written specifically on reparations for slavery. Title of the talk: "Slavery, Reparations, and Moral Clarity.”

• Thomas McCarthy, John C. Shaffer Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Northwestern University. His major research interests are in social and political philosophy, Critical Race Theory, and critical theory. He has written on the historians' debate in Germany and is currently writing on issues in political theory that relate to race, development, and globalization.

• Debra Satz, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Stanford University. She works in Social and Political Philosophy, Philosophy of Economics and Feminist Theory. Recent essays include "The World House Divided: The Claims of the Human Community in the Age of Nationalism" and "Equality of What Among Whom? Thoughts on Cosmopolitanism, Statism and Nationalism."

• Pablo De Greiff, Director of Research for the International Center for Transitional Justice in New York City. He is currently writing a book, Redeeming the Claims of Justice in Transitions to Democracy.

• George Sher, Herbert S. Autrey Professor of Philosophy at Rice University. His interests include Ethics, Social and Political Philosophy and Moral Psychology and he is, most recently, the co-author with William J. Bennett of "Moral Education and Indoctrination,"

The conference is sponsored by UC Riverside Department of Philosophy and
The Center for Ideas and Society through a generous grant from the Ford Foundation. It is free and open to the public. Reservations are required through Janet Mauren at janet.mauren@ucr.edu or (909) 787-5209.

Parking at UC Riverside costs $6 per day. A full schedule for the conference is included here.

Conference Schedule

Friday, February 28, 2003
10:00 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
Welcome and Announcements
10:15 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.
Speaker: Bernard Boxill
University of North Carolina,
Chapel Hill

“Two Lockean Arguments for Black Reparations”
Commentator: N. Ann Davis
Pomona College


1:30 p.m. - 3:15 p.m.
Speaker: George Sher
Rice University

"Transgenerational Compensation"
Commentator: Zachary Fish
University of California, Riverside

3:30 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Speaker: Robert Fullinwider
University of Maryland

“Slavery, Reparations, and Moral Clarity”
Commentator: Michael Hardimon
University of California, San Diego

5:15 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, March 1, 2003
9:00 a.m. - 9:15 a.m.
Welcome Back and Announcements
9:15 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Speaker: Pablo de Greiff
International Center for Transitional Justice

“The Role of Reparations in Transitions to Democracy”
Commentator: Bronwyn Ann Leebaw
University of California, Riverside11:15 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Speaker: Thomas McCarthy
Northwestern University

“Repairing Past Injustices: On the Politics of Reparations for Slavery and Segregation”
Commentator: Paul Stern
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of California

2:30 p.m. - 4:15 p.m.
Speaker: Debra Satz
Stanford University

“Reparations and Historical Injustices”
Commentator: Aaron James
University of California, Irvine

4:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Panel Discussion
Panelists: Bernard Boxill
Robert Fullinwider
Pablo de Greiff
Thomas McCarthy
Debra Satz
George Sher

The University of California, Riverside (www.ucr.edu) is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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