TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Bittker's Perspective on Black Reparations

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Photo of Book CoverFollowing up on Illinois Republican Senate candidate Alan Keyes' proposal to exempt African-Americans from the income tax (see TaxProf Blog here and here): Mary Heen (Richmond) notes that Boris Bittker, one the preeminent Tax Profs of all time, wrote a classic book on the subject, The Case for Black Reparations (1973), which was reissued in 2003 by Beacon Press with a preface to the revised ed. by Bittker and a foreward by Drew Days. Among the many favorable reviews of the book:

• New York Review of Books: "Professor Bittker's purpose here is to show that the concept of black reparations 'is far from bizarre or unprecedented,' and in this he has succeeded with unusual force."
• Toni Morrison (who was an editor when the book was originally published in 1973): “Publishing Boris Bittker’s The Case for Black Reparations in 1973 seemed to me an important contribution to the fledgling reparations debate. Now with its focus on the legal hurdles of such compensation, his work is more than significant—it is vital.”

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Boris Bittker deserves great praise not only for his treatises on tax law but also for his tome on the Commerce Clause. Those of us who took ConLaw in the pre-Warren Court days lived and breathed the Commerce Clause. The Rehnquist Court has tried to revert to the pre-1937 interpretations of the Commerce Clause but with only mild results, so far at least. Prof. Bittker's esteem in my eyes has shot up even further by his focus on Black Reparations. I think more tax scholars should take off blinders and broaden their visions in other areas of the law. Are there others?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Aug 24, 2004 4:01:32 AM

Boris wrote that? What was he smoking? I know, the same thing as Alan Keyes...

Posted by: Joe Kristan | Aug 24, 2004 9:33:45 AM

Let's not mix Alan Keyes with Boris Bittker, who wrote his book back in 1973. Keyes is merely a political opportunist who once rejected the idea of reparations for African-Americans and is apparently only now supporting the idea because it will separate him from his opponent in the Illinois U.S. Senate race: Keyes is an African-American whereas his opponent has an African father and a white mother and thus would not "qualify" as an African American.

Those seriously interested in the subject of reparations and related topics should check the following at: "Corrective Justice, Equal Opportunity, and the Legacy of Slavery and Jim Crow" by David Lyons, on the faculty of Boston University Law School, Working Paper No. 03-15. This can be downloaded without charge. Readers might learn a little more history than they did in their school days.

Posted by: Shag from Brookline | Aug 25, 2004 12:18:12 PM