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The Case for Reparations: How to Address the Legacies of Slavery and Racial Injustice


Admission requirements

This course is available for students of the Humanities Lab.
If you have received your propaedeutic diploma, or completed your first year, within one academic year, your academic results are good and you are a very motivated student, you may apply for a place in the Humanities Lab.


Reparations for slavery and racial injustice have long been a divisive subject. In recent years, the topic has gained renewed attention in the United States and across the world. In 2014, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ landmark essay ‘The Case for Reparations’ rejuvenated the reparations debate. According to Coates, reparations are essential for addressing systemic discrimination and healing the United States’ racial divisions. “Reparations,” he argues, “would mean a revolution of the American consciousness, a reconciling of our own self-image as the great democratizer with the facts of our history.” Meanwhile, the Black Lives Matter movement has shone a spotlight on the issue. Activists argue that reparations are crucial for creating a fairer, more democratic society, and for resolving ongoing systemic discrimination and racial injustice. Although mostly focused in the United States, the movement for reparations is truly global in scope. Activists and organizations across the world work together to demand justice for historic and ongoing harms. Furthermore, the reparations debate, while primarily focused on Black people and the legacies of slavery, encompasses people from various cultural backgrounds (for example, Indigenous peoples and Asian Americans). In this regard, the reparations debate is complex and wide-ranging. This seminar will investigate some of the main questions around the reparations debate. What are the arguments for and against reparations? Are reparations an adequate or viable solution to addressing past and ongoing harms? If so, what form should reparations take? And who should be included in the reparations debate? These questions (and others) will form the basis of the seminars.

Course objectives

This course has the following objectives:
1. Students will improve their knowledge of the history and legacy of slavery, systemic discrimination, and racial injustice in North America (and elsewhere);
2. Students will examine historic and contemporary debates on reparations;
3. Students will evaluate material, symbolic, cultural, and other forms of reparations;
4. Students will complete individual written assignments and a group assignment;
5. Students will develop their analytical, argumentation, and critical thinking skills;
6. Students will improve their writing skills through assignments;
7. Students will improve their public speaking and presentation skills through interaction with peers and assignments.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction


Assessment method

Please indicate here how the course is assessed.



Attendance and Participation - 20%
Group Presentations (ca. 15 minutes) - 30%
Individual Essay (ca. 2,500 words) - 40%
Reflection Report (ca. 750 words) - 10%
The group presentation should include a visual component(s), such as PowerPoint, Prezi, or video.


Attendance is compulsory for all meetings (lectures, seminars, excursion). If you are unable to attend due to circumstances beyond your control, notify the lecturer and/ or the Humanities Lab coordinatorsin advance, providing a valid reason for your absence, and hand in your weekly assignment in writing to the lecturer (if applicable). Being absent without notification and valid reason may result in lower grades or exclusion from the course.


If the final grade is insufficient (i.e. lower than a 6), there is the possibility to resit the individual assignments. Contact the course lecturer for more information.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

The reading list and syllabus will be available on Brightspace prior to the start of the course.


Students of the Humanities Lab will be registered in uSis by the administration of the Humanities Lab. Students register for the Humanities Lab modules through an online form, more information will be provided by Umail.
General information about uSis is available on the website.

Registration Studeren à la carte en Contractonderwijs

Not applicable.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: Huizinga


This course is part of the Humanities Lab programme, visit the website for more information.
Visit the Honours Academy website for more information about the Honours College.