Revealing a history that is deep, broad, and infuriating, The Black Tax casts a bold light on the racist practices long hidden in the shadows of America’s tax regimes.

American taxation is unfair, and it is most unfair to the very people who critically need its support. Not only do taxpayers with fewer resources—less wealth, power, and land—pay more than the well-off, but they are forced to fight for their rights within an unjust system that undermines any attempts to improve their position or economic standing. In The Black Tax, Andrew Kahrl reveals the shocking history and ruinous consequences of inequitable and predatory tax laws in this country—above all, widespread and devastating racial dispossession.

Throughout the twentieth century, African Americans acquired substantial amounts of property nationwide. But racist practices, obscure processes, and outright theft diminished their holdings and their power. Of these, Kahrl shows, few were more powerful, or more quietly destructive, than property taxes. He examines all the structural features and hidden traps within America’s tax system that have forced Black Americans to pay more for less and stripped them of their land and investments, and he reveals the staggering cost. The story of America’s now enormous concentration of wealth at the top—and the equally enormous absence of wealth among most Black households—has its roots here.

Kahrl exposes the painful history of these practices, from Reconstruction up to the present, describing how discrimination continues to take new forms, even as people continue to fight for their rights, their assets, and their power. If you want to understand the extreme economic disadvantages and persistent racial inequalities that African American households continue to face, there is no better starting point than The Black Tax.

Andrew Karhl will be joined in conversation by author and equity scientist Lawrence Brown.

About the Author: 

Andrew Kahrl is professor of history and African American studies at the University of Virginia. He is the author of the books The Land Was Oursand Free the Beaches.

About the Moderator: 

Lawrence Brown is the author of The Black Butterfly: The Harmful Politics of Race and Space in America. He is a research scientist at Morgan State University’s Center for Urban Health Equity and the director of the Black Butterfly Academy, a racial equity education and consulting firm.

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Add to Calendar 20240416 America/New_York 400 Cathedral Street Baltimore MD 21201 Andrew Kahrl: “The Black Tax”