Redeeming the Promise of Abolition
Revised second edition

Katherine Franke

Haymarket Books (August 2021)

Trade Paper • ISBN-13:9781642594706 • US $21.95 • 5.5 in x 8.5 in • 230 pgs.

Read: Making Good on the Broken Promise of Reparations (New York Review of Books, March 18, 2019)


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’s former plantation.

Through these two critical historical examples, Franke unpacks intergenerational, systemic racism and white privilege at the heart of American society and argues that reparations for slavery are necessary, overdue and possible.


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 being 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, author of 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 bold call for reparations and costly atonement.”

Darnell L. Moore, author of 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, New Yorker columnist and author, The Substance of Hope


Katherine Franke is one of the nation’s leading scholars writing on law, racial justice, African American history, and sexuality. She is chair of the Center for Constitutional Rights. Her first book was Wedlocked: The Perils of Marriage Equality (2017, NYU Press). She is the Sulzbacher Professor of Law, Gender and Sexuality Studies at Columbia University and Director of the Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, and chair of the board of Trustees of the Center for Constitutional Rights.


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