Nearly Three Quarters of Southerners Believe U.S. Should Offer African Americans Some Form of Reparations to Address Slavery

The 2022 annual Survey of the South from E Pluribus Unum (EPU) reveals a growing openness by Southerners on issues such as reparations for African Americans and accurate education on slavery and racism is schools. The survey, conducted in December 2022 by Allison+Partners, included 1,800 participants (600 Black respondents, Latino respondents, and white respondents each) and tracked attitudes on race, class, and equity, as well as pertinent national issues and policies in the South.

The survey finds that 74% of Southerners believe that the United States should offer African Americans some form of reparations (preservation of Black sacred sites and monuments, educational grants and/or scholarships, investments in predominately Black infrastructure, etc.) to address the lasting harm caused by slavery and other forms of racial discrimination. In fact, this year’s data highlights a significant sentiment shift in terms of Southerners’ willingness to support reparations. A 2019 Survey of the South question asked if Southerners supported or opposed financial reparations for direct descendants of slaves, and only 22% of White respondents said they would support such actions. But despite this increase in support on the issue of reparations, when asked whether creating opportunities for one group of people occurs at the expense of other groups, 54% of all respondents agreed, with white respondents in particular saying so (65%). 

Despite a national debate on Critical Race Theory and how children are being taught about race in schools, 96% of respondents believe that it’s important that their community’s education system tells the most accurate history of slavery, violence and discrimination against racial minorities in the United States, with 40% of respondents saying this is extremely important to them. 

Additional findings from the report include:

    • Attitudes on Race: 46% of Southerners think that race relations in the United States today are worse than five years ago, while nearly one-third feel that there’s been no progress (32%)
    • Openness to Differing Views: 38% of respondents think they would be treated poorly by members of their local community if they chose to express beliefs that were different than theirs  
    • Political Affinity & Identity: Of the areas Southerners associate extremely or very central to their identity, political party is least often selected (29%) – instead, most Southerners report that their gender identity, sexual orientation and race are extremely or very central to their identity (49%, 45% and 44%, respectively)
  • Sense of National Community: Nearly half of Southerners feel that people like them are being left behind in the United States (47%) 
  • Information Sources: Politicians and elected officials are the most distrusted information sources, at 51%. They are followed by social media influencers at 44% and celebrities at 35% 
    • Conversely, family are the most trusted information sources, at 77%, followed by friends and doctors at 73%
    • White respondents are significantly more likely to trust police than Black and Hispanic individuals (68% compared to 35% and 48%, respectively)

“It’s encouraging and long overdue to see Southerners’ growing acceptance towards discussing reparations to African Americans and ensuring schools provide accurate teachings on slavery and ongoing racism in the U.S.,” said Scott Hutcheson, Executive Director of E Pluribus Unum. “The results of this survey help inform the ongoing work of EPU, as we continue to identify ways to engage Southerners on advancing equity across the region through leadership acceleration, transformative policy, and narrative change. Continued education and open dialogue at the community level will be critical.”

This is the sixth survey in a deep-dive series by EPU focused on the American South, the first of which was released in 2019. A comprehensive analysis of the E Pluribus Unum’s 2022 Survey of the South is available below.