Our State of Mind by Robin Martin
The United States government used the same playbook they used to deny Native American tribes’ land as they used to deny formerly enslaved Africans after the Civil War.
You’ve heard of 40 Acres and a mule, well that was the outcome of that meeting of the minds. According to Lizzie Presser, Propublica, Union General Sherman met with African ministers who told him they needed land to farm to survive, to be self-sufficient.
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So, some 400,000 acres previously owned by Confederates, were set aside for the freedmen. As they put it, to reap the benefits of their labor. Later Congress passed the Southern Homestead Act that released another 46 million acres.
“By 1920, African Americans, who made up 10% of the population, represented 14% of Southern farm owners.” Propublica
Africans created self-sufficient diasporas. This did not last in many cases since the land was later taken away. It was “officially sanctioned by the courts targeting heirs’ property,” as reported by Propublica.
“Most black men were lynched between 1890 and 1920 because whites wanted their land.” Ray Winbush, Morgan State University.
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According to Propublica, between 1910 and 1997, African Americans lost about 90% of their farmland.
Since land owned by southern Blacks who had been sharecroppers did not have a clear title or will to establish ownership of the land, it became heir property. So-called heir property is vulnerable, as are the heirs when it comes to the dispossession of that land.
For example, real estate developers prey on owners of heir property to develop golf resorts like Hilton Head in Beaufort County, North Carolina it is believed or farm timber.
“These landowners are vulnerable to laws and loopholes that allow speculators and developers to acquire their property. Black families watch as their land is auctioned on courthouse steps or forced into a sale against their will.” Propublica
Heirs are not able to access loans from banks to build homes to increase the value of the property. If they want to farm it, a clear title is needed to qualify for the Department of Agriculture programs or even FEMA disaster relief.
According to the Propublica article, heir property located in the south has an estimated value of 3.5 million acres valued at $28 billion, in 2019. A major effect on the African-American racial wealth gap. Hardworking African-American farmers and their families have estimated land losses in the billions since 1910.
1827 – Rev. Nathaniel Paul gives speech on abolition of slavery in the state of New York
1852 – Frederick Douglass gives famous “What is the Fourth of July to the Negro,” speech
2000 – Vashti M. McKenzie appointed first female of the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.ME.)