The Center for Social Solutions is pleased to announce the launch of our 2022 paper competition focusing on issues within our Slavery and Its Aftermath research initiative. 

Although slavery is largely categorized by era—classical, chattel, and modern—the lasting and pervasive effects are still very much felt; from the systemic oppression within our political and social constructions to the active transport and exploitation of vulnerable human beings around the world, the economic, legal, and social institution of slavery in the American colonies laid the groundwork for many of today’s societal inequities, both in the United States and abroad.

In thinking about this connection between past and present, please respond to one of the following prompts exploring the topics of reparations and modern slavery, respectively.

Papers should be submitted to, subject line: 2022 Paper Competiton Submission

Prompt 1: Frameworks for Reparations

Assess the efficacy of a historical attempt at a reparative justice intervention in one of the following frameworks OR provide a comparative analysis of two interventions.

Since originally proposed in 1783* reparations have been a controversial topic straddling racial and other demographic lines globally. One of the key issues is a lack of clarity and consensus around the term “reparations”. Near synonyms, such as “redress” and “restitution”, have been noted as critical in racial justice efforts, and have contributed to the following non-exhaustive list of frameworks:

  • Efforts undertaken by non-governmental institutions (i.e. businesses, universities, etc.)
  • State or local level interventions
  • Non-direct payments including debt forgiveness, housing down payments, grants, etc.
  • Focusing on specific demographics such as descendants of African slaves, Native Americans, by income level, by educational attainment, etc.

Ongoing projects at the Center for Social Solutions have led us to think critically about the role of reparations and what reparations frameworks may be most effective in furthering racial justice efforts.


Income inequality and the racial wealth gap
Job markets and opportunity
Financial institutions and discriminatory practices
Interventions at the local, state, or federal levelVoting discrimination
Criminal justice
Urban planning and environmental hazards
Access to housing and homeownership
Educational opportunities and attainment
Legacy of slavery in higher education
Public awareness and education on historical oppression

Prompt 2: Response to the Third Slavery

Please address how tackling some or all forms of slavery together, rather than separately, might aid in crafting solutions toward their abolition?

Although slavery is officially illegal in all countries around the world, various forms of slavery, forced labor, or involuntary servitude continue to exist: an estimated 27 - 40 million persons endure some form of slavery today. We use the term “Third Slavery” to historicize newer forms and varieties of human slavery, in contrast to the “classical” slavery of pre-15th centuries and the trans-Atlantic and trans-Saharan “chattel” slaveries spanning the 15th to 20th centuries. For more information on The Third Slavery, see CSS’ Third Slavery Infographic.

The Center for Social Solutions seeks innovative responses to this complex challenge facing millions of people worldwide. Contemporary slavery practices include, but are not limited to, the following: forced migration, human trafficking, sex trafficking, forced marriage, indentured servitude, coerced labor, or inhumane labor conditions. The Third Slavery conceptualizes all forms of involuntary servitude as varieties of slavery, not in order to reduce the specificity of each, but rather to question what is to be gained, and in what ways, by thinking and tackling them (or groups of them) together rather than separate.

Submission Details and Eligibility

Submissions are open to all undergraduate and graduate students from all departments, colleges, and schools at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Flint, and Dearborn.

Word limit:
Undergraduate division: 1000-2000 words (5-8 sources)
Graduate division: 2000-3000 words (8-10 sources)

Style Guide:
Sources should be cited in the Chicago Manual of Style author-date system (examples found here). Final bibliography and title page do not count towards the total word count. 

Please list your name on the title page only (not adjacent to page numbers), so as to make paper anonymization easier for the judging panel. The title page should clearly indicate which prompt you selected, the title of your paper, your name, your year/grade, and word count. 

Papers should be well organized with clear section headings, written ideally in Times New Roman, Arial, Helvetica, or Georgia and size 11 pt font. 

The deadline for submission is 11:59pm on March 31, 2022.

Evaluation Criteria

Papers will be evaluated by a panel of experts using rubrics that are largely the same for each prompt, but vary slightly in specifics to account for the different requirements. 

Rubric and judges panel are forthcoming.

Award Distribution

The award amounts total $2,000 for graduate student papers and $700 for undergraduate student papers. The distribution of funds will be split evenly if two finalists are selected or proportionally if a finalist and runner(s)-up are selected.


If you would be interested in attending a Q&A session about the paper competition, please indicate your interest here!