The slavery reparations discussion has been reignited thanks to a new report by University of Connecticut researcher Thomas Craemer, who tallied up just how much it would cost to divvy up 40 acres and a mule and a boatload of money to descendants of enslaved Africans.
In the journal Social Science Quarterly, Craemer estimated that it would cost between $5.9 trillion and $14.2 trillion to give historical reparations. According to the report, he figured out the hefty price tag by calculating the slave labor men, women and children contributed to in the United States from its birth in 1776 until 1865, when slavery was officially abolished, Newsweek reports.
Craemer reportedly multiplied the amount of time enslaved people worked by average wage prices at the time, and then a compounding interest rate of 3 percent per year to work out the new reparations number.
“Reparations will never bring one life back, and it’s totally inadequate to the terror of the [past], but having a meaningful symbol of reparations is a good thing, not just for recipients but for the people who provide it,” Craemer says.
Craemer, who grew up in Germany, was influenced to do this work because Germany agreed to pay reparations to Jewish victims of the Nazis and had paid $89 billion in compensation since 2012.
“I grew up with this guilt complex about the Holocaust, and I remember kind of feeling good that my country paid reparations,” Craemer says.
Union Army General William Tecumseh Sherman promised slaves that they’d receive 40 acres and a mule. President Andrew Johnson reneged on that promise.