The Great Land Robbery
August 13, 2019 10:19 AM   Subscribe

The Mississippi Delta's History of Black Land Theft: The shameful story of how 1 million black families have been ripped from their farms.

The fields alongside us as we drove were monotonous. With row crops, monotony is good. But as we toured 1,000 acres of land in Leflore and Bolivar Counties, straddling Route 61, Scott-White pointed out the demarcations between plots. A trio of steel silos here. A post there. A patch of scruffy wilderness in the distance. Each landmark was a reminder of the Scott legacy that she had fought to keep—or to regain—and she noted this with pride. Each one was also a reminder of an inheritance that had once been stolen.

posted by poffin boffin (4 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
Thanks, poffin boffin.

This is not a story about TIAA—at least not primarily. The company’s newfound dominance in the region is merely the topsoil covering a history of loss and legally sanctioned theft in which TIAA played no part. But TIAA’s position is instrumental in understanding both how the crimes of Jim Crow have been laundered by time and how the legacy of ill-gotten gains has become a structural part of American life. The land was wrested first from Native Americans, by force. It was then cleared, watered, and made productive for intensive agriculture by the labor of enslaved Africans, who after Emancipation would come to own a portion of it. Later, through a variety of means—sometimes legal, often coercive, in many cases legal and coercive, occasionally violent—farmland owned by black people came into the hands of white people. It was aggregated into larger holdings, then aggregated again, eventually attracting the interest of Wall Street.

Injustice. So enraging. It is such an old story. Stings anyway.
posted by Bella Donna at 10:59 AM on August 13, 2019 [6 favorites]

Thank you for this. I am from this area and it is amazing how much white folks down there do not know. I am white and there is no end to the shit I don’t realize.

I tangentially know Mr. Nimrod and was relieved to see he played a decent role, if a small one, in the events here.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:08 PM on August 13, 2019 [7 favorites]

Lizzie Presser for The New Yorker last month: Kicked Off the Land.
Between 1910 and 1997, African-Americans lost about ninety per cent of their farmland. This problem is a major contributor to America’s racial wealth gap; the median wealth among black families is about a tenth that of white families. Now, as reparations have become a subject of national debate, the issue of black land loss is receiving renewed attention. A group of economists and statisticians recently calculated that, since 1910, black families have been stripped of hundreds of billions of dollars because of lost land. Nathan Rosenberg, a lawyer and a researcher in the group, told me, “If you want to understand wealth and inequality in this country, you have to understand black land loss.”
posted by mbrubeck at 12:17 PM on August 13, 2019 [11 favorites]

Another aspect of land ownership was covered in this article titled, Their Family Bought Land One Generation After Slavery. The Reels Brothers Spent Eight Years in Jail for Refusing to Leave It.
posted by xingcat at 12:48 PM on August 13, 2019 [5 favorites]

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