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The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel Releases Video Focused on Repairing Racial Wealth Disparity

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Contact: Pamela Goldsmith, 202.465.8270

Washington, DC – August 2, 2021: The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) today released its video, 40 Acres and a Mule: Reparations and the Estate Tax, delving into wealth disparity resulting from slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the history of reparations. The video is the College’s ninth in its monthly informational series Planning for a Diverse and Equitable Future, which is a project of ACTEC’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusivity Committee, that is funded by The ACTEC Foundation.

Research by ACTEC Fellows Sarah Moore Johnson and Raymond C. Odom into “40 Acres and a Mule” (a wartime order proclaimed in 1865 to provide reparations to former slaves, which was later revoked), led to a connection between wealth transfer, wealth taxation and slavery. That research further revealed that subsequent lost opportunities to create wealth through inheritance laid the foundation of the racial wealth gap. Currently, white American families have eight to ten times greater wealth than Black American families. The racial wealth divide is greater today than it was nearly four decades ago, and trends point to its continued widening.

Considering the historical underpinnings of the estate tax, which was enacted during the Gilded Age to reverse the widening wealth disparity between the robber baron industrialists and their laborers, Odom and Johnson determined that the estate tax is a logical source of revenue to narrow the racial wealth gap today. In a future segment, Odom and Johnson will lay out their vision for new charitable incentives to reward private individuals and institutions who help to repay the nation’s debt resulting from centuries of slavery, segregation and discrimination.

“The House bill H.R. 40 – named after the forgotten forty acres promised to freed slaves – is a positive step toward reparations for African Americans to mitigate lingering negative effects of slavery on our society,” said Odom. “Once we as estate planners recognize the connection between estate tax, as the tax designed to prevent wealth disparity, and African Americans, as the people group with the most disparate wealth in our country, we will want to remember the promise of the forgotten forty acres.” 

For further information about the Diversity, Equity & Inclusivity series, please visit

About The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC): Established in 1949, The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) is a national, nonprofit association of approximately 2,400 lawyers and law professors from throughout the United States and abroad. ACTEC members (Fellows) are peer-elected on the basis of professional reputation and expertise in the preparation of wills and trusts, estate planning, probate, trust administration and related practice areas. The College’s mission includes the improvement and reform of probate, trust and tax laws and procedures and professional practice standards. ACTEC frequently offers technical comments with regard to legislation and regulations but does not take positions on matters of policy or political objectives.

About The ACTEC Foundation:  The ACTEC Foundation is the philanthropic arm of The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel or ACTEC. The Foundation is a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) that offers education to families and professionals and supports students interested in the trust and estate area of the law. Through continued financial support, The ACTEC Foundation offers professional development, scholarships and education for a number of important efforts, including legal education, educational support, public initiatives, legal publications and the student editorial board.

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