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Andrew Kahrl: "The Black Tax"

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 Ours and 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. 

About the Program: 

  • This FREE event will be presented in-person and virtually.   
  • To attend in person please register here.
  • Doors will open to registered attendees at 6 pm. 
  • Free parking vouchers are available to program attendees who park at the Franklin Street Garage (15 W. Franklin Street) after 4pm.  Ask Pratt event staff for your parking voucher prior to or after the program.


Tuesday, April 16 at 7:00pm to 8:00pm

Central Library, Wheeler Auditorium
400 Cathedral Street, Baltimore, MD 21201

Event Type

Writers LIVE!, Black History, Virtual Event

Age Group


Compass Category

Writers LIVE at the Library

Event Publisher

Cleve Corner, Manager of Speaker & Author Engagement

Digital Signage



tickets required

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