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IACM 2023

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A History of Harms: 5 Frames For Organizational Historical Accountability

Some organizations considering tackling racial injustice are engaging in historical accountability processes for past harms. Here, I propose to present findings from my dissertation research where three cases of organizational historical accountability are explored: American Psychological Association’s public apology and action plan to address its history of perpetuating racism, Georgetown University grappling with its history of slavery, and the land transfer from Yale Union to the Native Arts and Culture Foundation as an act of land re-matriation. Stakeholders in these processes often had different aims and lenses for viewing these processes. Given these differences, five orientations for the ways organizations can take on historical accountability projects are proposed: perform, reform, repair, dismantle, and realign. These orientations are not mutually exclusive, but may help distinguish different aims, logics, theories of change, and elements that undergird historical accountability projects aimed at racial justice.

Allegra Chen-Carrel
University of San Francisco
United States


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