Why a major magazine put the issue of reparations for slavery on its June cover, I really don’t know. Maybe because Juneteenth – the festival marking the day in 1865 when Texas slaves learned of their emancipation 18 months after President Lincoln had signed it – comes in June. Of course, that date rolls around every June 19 and the concept of reparations existed long before emancipation.
Reparations came to my attention through civil rights activism in the 1960s, although it was proposed by abolitionists before the Civil War. Lincoln’s “40 Acres and a Mule” policy was actually a form of reparations, recognizing that the wealth of much of the country had come from the work of slaves who remained landless and penniless, and without many opportunities otherwise. Where it was implemented change happened, even in the Deep South. But it stalled after Lincoln’s assassination, and things went backwards as segregation took root and became the common public policy of the nation.