Research & Engagement

At the Center for Racial Justice, we organize and sponsor various opportunities to advance antiracism and racial justice through research, policy work, and community engagement in the Ford School and wider U-M community.

We seek to explore, analyze, and understand how public policies have undermined or advanced the goal of racial equity, illuminating evidence-based solutions and supporting the changemakers who advocate for sound, just, and fair public policies day in and day out. We invite you to explore our current opportunities and to connect with us to learn more. 

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My vision for the Center for Racial Justice is to expand the body of scholarship exploring the historical, current, and potential relationship between public policy and racial equity. We seek to approach this work with an eye towards evidence-based solutions. Equally important, we seek to cultivate and support early-career scholars that share a desire to advance this area of research.

Mara Ostfeld, research director at the Center of Racial Justice


Forty acres and a mule? How Flint residents believe the government should repay Black Americans

October 2023

By Erykah Benson and Jasmine Simington

Calls for reparations - or actions to make amends to Black Americans for enslavement and ongoing discriminatory practices - date back to the years immediately after the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. The “nation’s earliest architects of reparations,” the formerly enslaved, asked explicitly for land and monetary compensation as a pathway to economic independence and restitution for the dehumanization of enslavement. Early (failed) promises from the federal government led to the common conception of “forty acres and a mule” as reparations for Black Americans. More recently in the United States, local leaders have developed other proposals that expand the concept of reparations beyond land and cash payments and address the effects of systemic racism in the realms of housing, neighborhoods, education, health, and criminal justice, among others. These different ideas about what racial restitution means and how it should be enacted reflect an important policy challenge: How should a nation atone for the atrocities of enslavement, systemic racial violence, and ongoing discrimination? 

Residents and community leaders in Flint, Michigan, are in the early stages of brainstorming what reparations for local Black Americans might look like, as part of a national reparations project. Through this project, the University of Michigan is working with local leaders in Flint to develop communitybased reparations initiatives that could mitigate some of the harms caused by structural racism in Flint, including the city’s ongoing water crisis. This brief explores Flint residents’ attitudes toward potential reparations initiatives. In the MIMACS survey, reparations are defined as governmental action to make amends to Black Americans for the ongoing harm caused by slavery and more recent discriminatory policies. We explore attitudes towards the general idea of governments making amends, as well as specific reparative policies that are either targeted toward individual Black Americans or larger systemic changes.

Click here to read the full brief. 

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Adams-Santos, Headshot

Dom Adams-Santos

Managing Director, Center for Racial Justice; Associate Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer; Special Assistant to the Associate Dean, Ford School; Anti-Racism Collaborative Postdoctoral Fellow, National Center for Institutional Diversity

Office 5312, Weill Hall
735 S. State St.
Ann Arbor, MI, 48109