Books for changing the world
Redeeming the Promise of Abolition

A compelling case for reparations based on powerful, first person accounts detailing both the horrors of slavery and past promises made to its survivors.

Katherine Franke makes a powerful case for reparations for Black Americans by amplifying the stories of formerly enslaved people and calling for repair of the damage caused by the legacy of American slavery. Repair invites readers to explore the historical context for reparations, offering a detailed account of the circumstances that surrounded the emancipation of enslaved Black people in two unique contexts, the Sea Islands of South Carolina and Davis Bend, Mississippi, Jefferson Davis’ former plantation.

This is an updated second edition of the original book with new material from the author.

  • "With eloquence, skill, and an unstinting eye on justice, the second updated edition of legal scholar Katherine Franke’s Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition, is as powerful as it is timely. Focused on the Sea Islands of South Carolina where the promise of land after emancipation began, Franke confronts the “original sin from which the evil of structural racism has grown…”. She turns to the voices of Black enslaved people themselves to make the case that the value of their labor and lives were stolen, and a debt is owed. She then imagines alternate futures, and maps a path toward reparations, not to feign some type of artificial closure, but to approximate some modicum of justice. This is a must-read book for organizers and historians alike.” Barbara Ransby

    "For more than one hundred and fifty years African Americans have made demands that the federal government redress and repair the catastrophic social, emotional, political and economic consequences of slavery in this nation. In this new essential book, Repair: Redeeming the Promise of Abolition, legal scholar Katherine Franke engages the original debates concerning the conditions upon which newly freed Black people would rebuild their lives after slavery. Franke powerfully illustrates the repercussions of the unfilled promise of land redistribution and other broken promises that consigned African Americans to another one hundred years of second-class citizenship. Franke passionately argues that the continuation of those vast disparities between Black and white people in U.S. society--a product of slavery itself--means that the struggle for reparations remains a relevant demand in the current movements for racial justice." Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation

    "Repair revisits the revolutionary era of Reconstruction, that "brief moment in the sun" in the words of W.E. B. Du Bois, when the redistribution of land and wealth as recompense for unrequited toil could have secured genuine freedom for Black people rather than a future of racial inequality, exploitation, marginalization, and precarity. To begin the road to repair, Katherine Franke makes a persuasive case for reparations as at least a first step toward creating the conditions for genuine freedom and justice, not only for African Americans but for all of us."Robin D. G. Kelley, Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

    "Katherine Franke argues for a type of Black freedom that is material and felt--freedom that is more than a poetic nod to claims of American moral comeuppance. Repair: Redeeming The Promise of Abolition is a critical text for our times that demands an honest reckoning with the consequences, and afterlife, of the sin that was chattel enslavement. It is a bold call for reparations and costly atonement." Darnell L. Moore, No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black & Free in America

    "Katherine Franke is consistently one of the sharpest, most conscientious thinkers in progressive politics. In a time defined by crisis and conflict, Katherine is among that small number of thinkers whom I find indispensable."Jelani Cobb, The Substance of Hope