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The Debt : What America Owes to Blacks Hardcover – January 3, 2000

ISBN-13: 978-0525945246 ISBN-10: 0525945245 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Dutton Adult; First edition (January 3, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0525945245
  • ISBN-13: 978-0525945246
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (109 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,511,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Randall Robinson, the founder and president of TransAfrica (a lobbying organization dedicated to influencing U.S. policy toward Africa and the Caribbean), recounted his heroic struggle to fight and overcome racism in the magnificent Defending the Spirit. In his triumphant follow-up, The Debt, he goes further than any previous black public figure in calling for reparations to African-Americans for the present-day racism that stems from 246 years of slavery. Citing compensation that Jews and Japanese Americans have received, he writes, "No race, ethnic or religious group has suffered as much over so long a span as blacks have and do still, at the hands of those who benefited ... from slavery and the century of legalized American racial hostility that followed it." In making his case, Robinson utilizes facts and figures that highlight the disparity between African-Americans and whites. While fully recognizing the monumental odds of this movement's success, Robinson feels that the push for reparations will also greatly benefit African-Americans in nonmaterial ways: "Even the making of a well-reasoned case for restitution will do wonders for the spirit of African-Americans," he argues. "It will cause them to at long last understand the genesis of their history--before, during, and after slavery--into one story of themselves." --Eugene Holley Jr.

From Publishers Weekly

As founder and president of TransAfrica, an organization aimed at influencing U.S. policies toward Africa and the Caribbean, Robinson can be said to have contributed to the antiapartheid movement and the restoration of democracy in Haiti. Having vividly outlined the pervasiveness of American racism in his previous work, Defending the Spirit, he now summons America to acknowledge what he casts as its financial obligation to blacks for centuries of slavery and continued subjugation. Substantiating his analysis of America's ignorance of African history and the agenda of the Clinton administration with personal stories that illustrate the impact of de facto discrimination, he reveals slavery's legacy not only in our social and political lives, but also in the American psyche. In Robinson's view, the incessant deification of the founding fathers (many of whom owned slaves) and the denial of the benefits gained from centuries of slave labor are, in effect, an attempt to pretend "that America's racial holocaust never occurred." Juxtaposing domestic racism with the sufferings of people abroad, he contends that America's dubious foreign policy initiatives in Cuba and throughout the black world should be mitigated through debt relief. Methodically tackling one issue at a time, Robinson suggests the creation of a trust to assist in the educational and economic empowerment of African-Americans. Whether readers agree or disagree with his views, Robinson has made a definitive step in presenting these controversial and still unresolved issues. Book club rights sold to Doubleday/Black Expressions; author tour. (Jan.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This book will do nothing to change their minds.
Tom Vorster
Obviously, we as Black Americans can not wait for white Americans to be fervent enough about admitting their role in slavery IN DETAIL and being accountable for it.
Donald Agarrat
Neither does Randall Robinson, nor does he claim to in this book.
Omo Misha

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 36 people found the following review helpful By tony suggs on January 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Mr Robinson could have helped blacks much better by explaining how he was able to overcome his impovished childhood than to endlessly drone on about how slavery has effected every black in America today. To simply state over and over again that slavery caused children in 1975 Boston or a 9 year old in 1999 Virginia to fail in school is utter nonsense. We, the parents of our black children, as my parents taught my siblings and me, are responsible for our own education. If slaves risked being killed by their owners if they were caught reading, still perservered, then no matter how bad public or private schools are today, children can still learn if they and their parents put in the effort! Mr Robinson decries how the US and the IMF has destroyed African nations by subjecting them to conditions that are not favoable to them when they accept developmental loans. Yet, he wants American blacks to demand and accept money from the US government to "educate" us on how slavery has robbed us of our history. How was Mr Robinson able to learn the "facts" about slavery, the great African empires and the relatively recent history on Amercian slavery? Can not the rest of us learn without handouts from Uncle Sam? Finally, Mr. Robinson left out one of the most important factors of black helplessness. That is we, me too until Bill Clinton took office, continue to elect public leaders that make promise after promise with no accountiblity to us at all. The Democrats know that they have the black vote and the Republicans know they can never get it. So, why should either give a damn! The debt may have been created by others, but we have perpetuated it ourselves!
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46 of 65 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 22, 2002
Format: Paperback
...there are many african-americans out there who are proud to be american, and not 'hyphenated'. we will always have our own special togetherness, but [stuff] like this is no excuse. "united we stand, divided we fall." - a motto for all of america. there's not enough wealth in the world to pay off all the debts for things that peoples have done to each other. remember slave comes from 'slav', like in the slavic peoples who coincidentally are not black but were in chains too. slavery was a terrible part of american history, but hundreds of thousands of ... white boys died to free the slaves so if that didn't pay the debt then no amount of money ever will.
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30 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
My white German ancestor was an "Indentured Servant." Where is MY apology?
Indentured servants worked side-by-side with the slaves. They got a raw deal, too. So where is my $$$? History has some hard and horrible moments, and should be preserved with honesty, and with an attitude of learning from it. I'm sorry that the African-American slaves suffered, and I'm sorry that MY ancestor was forced to be an indentured servant... But GET A CLUE!!! "The Debt" is not the answer.
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24 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on February 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I've long been interested in the question of restitution/reparations, and consider it a serious failing of our nation that this issue hasn't been considered or debated. So it was with great expectation that I read Robinson's book. I was hoping it would do two things: show that restitution is necessary, and show that it's possible. Unfortunately, it only did the former (and not as effectively as other books I've read). It lacked a serious and thorough analysis of legal and political precedent, the policy choices that would be necessary, and what political forces would need to align to make this happen. As a result, the argument sounded more argumentative than authoritative. If I hadn't already been in support of restitution, this book wouldn't have convinced me.
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48 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Roberto Munguambe on February 9, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is the sort of book only an american could write. Robinson's politically correct ideas do nothing to help the progress of balck or african people: to pretend that America or the world owe us a sort of social reparation for our history is nothing but an elaborate form of paternalism. In fact, our progress should flow only from our merit and work at present days, not from a debt inherited from the past. I believe we can rise to the job and stop blaming others for our problems.
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73 of 106 people found the following review helpful By Emil L. Posey on January 3, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is objectionable, even reprehensible. A worse racist diatribe I have never encountered. He begins with a powerful introduction in which he discusses how the design and construction of the Capitol epitomizes the disenfranchisement of black Americans. From there he sinks into victimology in the opening paragraph of Chapter 1 and wallows in it for the rest of the book.
He succumbs to the need to redefine history. For example, in pages 18-19 he mentions a discussion on a "60 Minutes" program aired September 20, 1998, regarding possible successors to Pope John Paul II. That discussion included the possibility of a Nigerian (i.e., a black) Cardinal and what implications that might have for the Church. Then he points out CBS' failure to mention that there have been three Popes from Africa or of African descent: Saint Victor I (189-199), Saint Miltiades (311-314), and Saint Gelasius (492-496). His point is that back then Africans were considered equals. That's true. However, he fails to point out that none of them were black, either. They were of European Mediterranean stock.
He prattles on about all sorts of ills. He bemoans the general lack of knowledge about African history, especially among blacks. He slams Thomas Jefferson as a hypocrite, and then tackles George Washington. He criticizes our school system and our lack of involvement in Rwanda. It goes on and on.
There are kernels of merit in most of his arguments. However, they get painted over with his own brush of racism.
It's clear that he doesn't like America. (pg. 134.) He likes his wealth, constitutional rights, etc., but dislikes the feel of America. In other words, he dislikes whites.
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