Racial Redress and Reparations Lab

The Racial Redress and Reparations Lab (“RRRL”) advances CRRJ’s work with communities and policy makers seeking to engage effectively and responsibly with the heightened call for racial redress in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. RRRL offers expertise in designing reparative processes, historical and legal research, convening assistance, and policy development. Our approach is to bring all stakeholders on board in the development and design of these processes, for we believe that participation, consultation, and dialogue is essential to the project of reparation. RRRL’s mission is to provide community education and engagement that paves the way for a successful project of repair and recognition.

Why CRRJ and the Lab?

The Lab is uniquely positioned to further the quest for just remediations. In addition to CRRJ’s academic leadership in the study and remediation of racial violence, its founder, University Distinguished Professor Burnham,  is a leading international expert on civil rights and restorative justice. Professor Burnham was appointed in 1993 by South African President Nelson Mandela to serve on an international human rights commission to investigate alleged human rights violations within the African National Congress, a precursor to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Image above: Tom Jones Jr., Willie Lee Davis, Hilliard Brooks, Royal Cyril Brooks, Prentiss McCann, Willie B. Carlisle, Timothy Hood, Allen Bruce Foster, Henry “Peg” Gilbert, Ellis Hutson Sr., James Earl Motley, Samuel Mason Bacon, Jessie James Shelby, Chrispon Charles Jr., and Sam Terry. 

Lab Projects


Our Historical Injustices and Present Policing Project (“HIPP”) has translated its research into practical learning tools for the criminal justice community.

HIPP is a partnership among five Northeastern affiliates, led by CRRJ. HIPP seeks to generate deeper awareness of the dynamics and legacy of historical racial violence and the role of law enforcement in this history, thereby promoting trust and mutual understanding between law enforcement professionals and the communities they serve in the present.

To this end, HIPP created a first-of-its-kind training curriculum to introduce police officers and other criminal justice professionals to the history of racially based historical injustices in the U.S.. The toolkit draws from cases investigated by CRRJ and leverages lessons gleaned from these cases to illuminate connections between this history and present issues in police practices. The materials include a detailed outline for training instructors, a slide presentation for use in classroom instruction, a digital map of sites of historical racial homicides, and a comprehensive toolkit that provides context and case studies. We have delivered trainings to the Cambridge Police Department, MA; Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, MA; Baker Police Department, LA; Southern University Police Department, LA; and Charleston Police Department, SC.

Birmingham Initiative

For seven years, CRRJ has been in conversation with community groups, individual families, and city leaders in Birmingham, AL on the topic of historical violence by local police. In 2013, at the Birmingham City Hall, we sponsored a workshop for the state’s legislative leaders on historical racial violence in the city and state. In October 2017 we hosted a forum titled “Resurrecting Their Stories: a community-based oral history project” at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Thereafter we expanded our investigation of racialized police killings in Jefferson County, unearthing previously hidden evidence of wanton police killings of African Americans in the 1930s and 1940s, resulting in the Birmingham Report.

This Report revealed 127 Birmingham police homicides. Of the 127 victims in these cases, 123 (or 96%) were African American. Northeastern University news covered our research on historical police murders in Birmingham. In March 2020, CRRJ hosted a forum titled “Remembrance and Repair: Police Violence in the Jim Crow Era” at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. This event brought together families of the victims of the police violence, along with public officials, law enforcement leaders, restorative justice and criminal justice experts, academic experts, and community members to discuss this history with an eye towards repair.

In December 2020, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and the Birmingham Public Safety Task Force released Reform and Reimagine Birmingham Public Safety. This report outlines the task force’s recommendations for improving public safety and policing in the city, as well as the mayor’s 2021-2025 public safety policy agenda. The report relies on CRRJ’s investigations of police killings in Jefferson County to provide historical context about policing in Birmingham. It includes language, key data points, and recommendations from CRRJ’s Birmingham Report.


Conference: Lynching: Reparations as Restorative Justice

In November 2020, CRRJ brought descendant families together with longstanding leaders of US reparations movements, racial justice activists, and scholars to discuss avenues for compensatory reparations and other forms of individual and community repair. Panelists explored fundamental questions at the heart of a successful case for reparations: (1) why reparations for lynching; (2) what modes of redress; and (3) from whom should descendants and the collectivities they represent seek reparations? Discussants addressed several projects of historical redress, including the Chicago Torture Justice memorials, the Rosewood, Florida project, and the Civil Liberties Act of 1988. After the public forum descendants held workshops with a group of experts to discuss strategy.


Conference: Racial Redress and Reparations

In December 2021, CRRJ and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University convened a conference on policy approaches to redressing historical racial harms.

Recent years have seen heightened calls for the redress and remediation of historical racial injustice. Policymakers have responded with initiatives that take meaningful steps to address the United States’ long legacy of racial violence and injustice.

This convening took a close look at the current laws and proposals put forth by those legislators and public officials who are at the forefront of these efforts. The conference brought together lawmakers, academic experts, and advocates from across the country to explore legislative efforts to launch government-sponsored truth proceedings and reparations programs.


Redressing Historical Racial Injustices: A Toolkit for Policymakers and Advocates

This toolkit introduces readers to a range of policy approaches to remediating historical racial injustices, including racial violence, oppression, and discriminatory polices and practices. In some cases, legislation may be appropriate to address a discrete event, such as a commission created to study a specific massacre and provide remedies to survivors and descendants. Other initiatives may aim to address a broader historical period or pattern of events – for example, a commission to study a state’s history of lynching or a task force to develop proposals for reparations for descendants of slavery. This toolkit serves as a resource to help state and local policymakers, staff, and advocates understand why such remedies are needed, what forms they may take, and what policies other states and localities have adopted to address historical injustices.

The toolkit also draws from polices adopted by states and localities in the United States to address historical injustices, such as apologies by state or local government officials or legislative bodies; truth and reconciliation commission; and material reparations for survivors and descendants. However, all redress efforts should be directly informed by, and developed in collaboration with, the communities most affected by the historical harms, particularly survivors and descendants. It is essential that reparative processes create opportunities for community engagement and input at all stages.

View the Toolkit Executive Summary here.

Our materials include:

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