Achiume Testifies Before House Judiciary Subcommittee on Slavery Reparations

February 18, 2021
UCLA Law Professor E. Tendayi Achiume

UCLA School of Law Professor E. Tendayi Achiume testified in a virtual hearing, “H.R. 40: Exploring the Path to Reparative Justice in America,” that the U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties held on Feb. 17. 

Achiume is a core faculty member of UCLA Law’s Promise Institute for Human Rights, Critical Race Studies program, and David J. Epstein Program in Public Interest Law and Policy. She has also served since 2017 as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance. She is the first woman and first person from southern Africa to hold that position.

As an expert witness in the hearing on the bill H.R. 40, also known as the Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act, Achiume offered an international human rights perspective to the issue of reparations for slavery.

“Popular conceptions of reparations are often fairly narrow, focusing only on financial compensation,” she said. “But by contrast, the international system places emphasis on a more comprehensive approach, according to which financial compensation may certainly be necessary but not sufficient. Other required measures may include transforming the political, economic and social institutions; and mechanisms for disclosing truth and restoring dignity for those subject to racial subordination resulting from legacies of enslavement.”

According to the committee, the bill “would create a commission to study the history of slavery in the United States and in the American colonies from 1619 to 1865; the role of the federal and state governments in supporting slavery; federal and state laws that discriminated against the descendants of African slaves; other forms of discrimination against the descendants of African slaves; and the lingering effects of slavery on African Americans. The commission would also make recommendations as to appropriate ways to educate the American public about its findings and appropriate remedies in light of the commission’s findings.”

Achiume earned her B.A. and J.D. from Yale University, joined UCLA Law in 2014, and previously served as the faculty director of the Promise Institute. She teaches international human rights law, property, and the innovative International Human Rights Clinic, through which students collaborate with local and international human rights organizations on policy, litigation, and advocacy projects, including at summits in New York and Europe.

In 2020, she won UCLA’s Eby Award for the Art of Teaching and became the 31st UCLA Law professor to win UCLA’s Distinguished Teaching Award, the university’s highest honor for excellence in the classroom.

Watch the video of the hearing here and read Achiume’s prepared testimony here.

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