Land Grabbing, the Road to Landless African Americans

by Eco.Soul.Intellectual

In 1986, white land grabbing in the South was the norm in the United States and had been for a very long time. In fact, while unjustly ousted USDA employee Shirley Sherrod was overcoming her notions of race and humanity in an extremely racist and toxic Georgian Confederate agricultural circle in 1986, the federal government was supporting institutionalized racism and classism that still runs rampant in the production of food sources within the United States.
Unlike the white farmer Sherrod helped over twenty years ago, black farmers have been losing their land due to the lack of government assistance and the “good ole white boy” network at extremely disproportionately high rates.

As well, African-American heirs to farmlands across this country have lost millions of acreage since the turn of the nineteenth century due to unknown taxes or the lack of awareness of land ownership because of properties that were abandoned by their forebears who had to flee the South and Mid-West for safety.

Unfortunately, these stories have gone untold and remain part of the problem of the current land grabbing that has rapidly dwindled black farms, black generational lands, the Gullah Islands, and now black urban communities. 40 Acres and a mule is nothing compared to what blacks have lost.

It blows my mind to think of how blacks have become landless when you read the except below.

In 1910 at the peak of land acquisition, African American farmers owned 15 million acres of land; in 2002 just 1,500,000 acres of land was owned by only 16,560 African American farmers. Ellie Hurley Reports

The report goes on to explain the reasons for the loss of land. One of the major issues is heir land, where descendants become owners of land from a relative who did not leave a will nor a plan on how the land should be used. Also, land is being lost because black farmland is being lost due to loss of monies to maintain them.

The loss of land by African-Americans is also documented in a 500-page study released in November 1980 called, “The Impact of Heir Property on Black Rural Land Tenure in the Southeastern Region of the United States,” by Joseph Brooks.

The research starts with the talks of an Emergency Land Fund, an institution founded by Robert S. Brown in 1972. It was an organization who had a mission to create US policies that supported and protected black land ownership, especially among black farmers.

The Emergency Land Fund was a direct response to news and government reports of rapid loss of land owned by African-Americans and the lack of resources or support to maintain farms.

According to Brooks, Robert Browne estimated that in Chicago alone, blacks were heirs to a billion dollars worth of abandoned land in the South, specifically Mississippi, and most did not know it.

Today’s black famer’s are dealing with issues the white farmer Sherrod helped could not even fathom. Not only are they under-resourced and under-represented due to class, but black farmers are also at the bottom of the food chain due to insidiuous racial discrimination that has never quelled in the South.

Even more so, this land grabbing is not exclusive to the South. I see it happening in the North and urban areas. Look at the ghost town of Detroit, and pockets of black neighborhoods that sit empty due to strategic, institutional land dispossession. Buck 40 acres, today, black folk wish we had 1 acre and a ten-speed bike.

Talk about a history being erased. And here we are sitting around complaining about how black people don’t own shit and can’t own it. We can give so much energy to myths and live the lie. I swear I will stop salivating when I watch the reality show, Property Virgins, because my cherry was popped a long time ago. I do own land. Now I’ve got to find it.

It is quite ironic and not surprising that Neo-Paddyrollers aka Tea Baggers attempt to pull the reverse racism card on Shirely Sherrod in her dealings with a Caucasian farmer who was being punked by his white bredren corporatists.

Perhaps if the teabaggers took the cotton from their eyes and pulled out their real family tree, the one where one of my ancestors were lynched, they shall see the truth and find themselves on the bottom of the food chain like us.

I encourage you to join the National Black Farmers Association and support local black farmers who sell conventional and organic produce.

PHOTO CAPTION: John Boyd, black farmer, agricultural justice activist, and president of the National Black Farmers Association