It is a shock to many that about 1 million Black landowners in the South of America have lost 12 million acres of farmland in the last 100 years. Even as we write this, we are shocked beyond reactions as to how a system can frustrate a people over the span of a century, without any plan to let go.
The loss of farmland of Black landowners started around the 1950s and has lasted to date. According to reports from The Atlantic, the black families which have lost their farms were victims of a war that is waged by the “deed of title” system which is said to be promoted by white racism/supremacy and local white power.
In our bid to dig into history to find the causes for Black poverty, economic and social decline, we find that Black people in America have suffered social injustice so much that it will take hard work (unity and power) for Black communities to rival white communities and businesses which are fed with finances of white privilege in America.
Our findings show that 98% of black farm owners in America have been dispossessed of their land. This is a direct indication of the systemic prejudice, and racial injustice perpetrated against the people of African descent in America.
History holds it that the vegetative and arable farmlands in the South of America, especially those along the Mississippi River, was forcefully taken from Native Americans, by the first Europeans who came to America. These Europeans would later venture into the enslavement of Africans for the cultivation of those lands. The Africans would later become owners of some of those lands after the abolishment of slavery and their emancipation.
A report by the U.S Department of Agriculture says that from the year 1900 till 1910, that there were 25,000 black farm operators. This figure increased by 20% in the space of those ten years. The report from ‘The Atlantic’ which we draw our information from, states clearly that the research was carried out on black farmland in the Mississippi area. The lands in question were found to be 2.2 million acres as of 1910. This number was about 14% of the total lands owned by Black people in America.
How Black People Lost Their Lands – The Plots And Twits
What was later realized about how Black people lost their lands was that it was somewhat a well thought out plan, and it was well executed over a long span of years. Some others would say that it was a collection of racist events that drove the wheel of white supremacy in one direction. Through legal, violent, and coercive means, the farmlands which were legally owned by people of African descent in America were transferred to white people. They started the land grab and transfer by aggregating them into large holdings, then aggregated them again, before attracting the profit-seeking eyes of ‘Wall Street.‘
The operation started with New Deal agencies in 19937. These agencies were federal agencies with white administrators, who were exceptionally targeting Black people. They denied Black landowners’ loans, and in turn channeling the sharecropping jobs to white people majorly. These agencies were systematically made to be in charge of the prices, investors, and regulation of the agricultural economy in America. This led to the failure of small farms and gave way for the rise of huge industrial mega-farms, which were formerly large plantations. The mega-farms and their new owners were then given the power to dictate and influence the policies of the agricultural sector.
The Black landowners suffered numerous illegal pressures through USDA loan programs. The USDA loan was originally designed to give rural people in America, an opportunity to take loan with zero down payment. It also offers low-interest-rate on the down payments.
Instead of these loans to be given proportionately to Black and white farmers, it was not. More white people got loans thereby frustrating the Black landowners and caused an enormous wealth transfer just after the 1950s. In a space of 19 years, black farmers had lost about 6 million acres of land by 1969. The effects were catastrophic on Black wealth. This saw a failure of half a million Black-owned farms across America. The cotton farms that were owned by Black farmers were almost non-existent at that point.
‘The Atlantic’ puts the loss of black farmers in Mississippi, to be around 800,000 acres, amounting to $3.7 billion (in today’s dollars), between 1950 and 1964.
The Legal Push To Grab Black Lands
It is safe to say that most of the atrocities committed against Black people all over the world for centuries have been backed by well-thought-out and woven laws that protect the aggressors. So, it is not a mere coincidence that the judicial arm of white supremacy (at the time), was neck-deep in taking black lands from black people. The same was happening in many parts of Africa at the point, so why would it be any different in America, which was neck-deep in slavery?
When one looks at how black people lost their lands through the tax sale, the partition slave, and the foreclosure, it might look real and like though a great bad-luck befell the entire black community. Then when analyzed in-depth, one would find that the land loss was caused by “illegal pressures” which included mass discrimination in state and federal programs. More methods were applied by the system to frustrate the Black landowners, and they were swindled by lawyers and speculators, unlawful denials of private loans, and even outright acts of violence or intimidation.
When black farmers had no access to honest loan serving, and others having their loan applications denied by federally funded committees, which were controlled by white people, they were forced into foreclosure, and then their properties were bought by wealthy white landowners.
Of course, while this was happening, the Black community found out and a couple of others tried to avoid the foreclosures, but they still got to lose their lands. They were defrauded by white tax assessors, that intentionally set the assessments too high for these black landowners, leading to tax obligations that were too exorbitant and unaffordable for the farm owners. This was followed as usual by tax sales, with rich white landowners waiting to buy the black lands off. The worst of this all was that there were little or no legal services to defend the “title claims” of black families, and that led to the disaster which we all see today.
The Use Violence And Brutality
At that time in America’s history, there were numerous incidents of riots, lynching, police brutality, and a disturbing level of intimidation which mostly forced the black farmers to abandon their lands and flee the racial hate and terror in the South.
It is reported that the population of Black people in Mississippi dropped drastically by almost one-fifth, from 1950 to 1970, and the white population grew by exactly the same amount to replace the blacks who ran for their lives. This meant a minority population for the blacks when the time came for them to exercise their rights to vote.
The attack on the Black community continued into the later years of the 20th century. By the end of the 1970s, the commodity prices dropped due to the acceleration of inflation. The inflation created an agricultural-credit crisis, which was tough and impossible to live through without the intervention and help of the federal government. It would interest you to know that the federal government help basically went to more than 99% of white farmers. This is actually 20 years after the Civil Rights Act – who dares to say there is no white supremacy at play in America?
An article carried by the “The Nation” in 2005 had this to say about the USDA loan in the 1980s: “In 1984 and 1985, at the height of the farm crisis, the USDA lent a total of $1.3 billion to nearly 16,000 farmers to help them maintain their land. Only 209 of those farmers were black.”
This behavior continued and was solidified during the 2008 global financial crisis, which saw an unprecedented rise in the market in the U.S farmlands. This gained the interest of the deep-pocket Wall Street investors, who put in all they got to monopolize and milk the opportunity. A pension firm, Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, made use of the doors opened for them and bought more than 130,000 acres in a collection of counties that were along the Mississippi River.
This made the company become the largest pension-fund player in the world’s agricultural market. With big institutional investors gunning for these lands, and the stringent measures in place to disallow Black and small farmers from competing, the lands went to the big companies who would hold the lands and pass it off to their next generation.
All of this started from the well-calculated plan, enforced by a group of white plantation owners, who created the agri-government system, and systematically absorb thousands of farms owned by black people. Fast forward to today, and you have highly disproportionate ownership of farmlands, compared to the beginning of the 1900s. What started with one million black farmers in 1914, ended up with just 18,000 black farmers in 1992. In 2019, 27 years after that, your guess is as good as ours on the number of black farmers that remain, seeing that the system of white dominance is still in effect in America.
Researchers who worked on this analysis and report told “The Atlantic” that “The dispossession of black agricultural land resulted in the loss of hundreds of billions of dollars of black wealth. We must emphasize this estimate is conservative … Depending on multiplier effects, rates of returns, and other factors, it could reach into the trillions…”
Meet Some Of The Remaining Black-Owned Farms Of Today
It will surprise you to know that the remaining Black-owned farms in all of the United States are just about 2% of the entire number of farm owners. We wonder how many percent would be left 50 years from now. The 2% was confirmed by the U.S Department of Agriculture statistics (USDA).
The tops 10 of the Black-owned remaining are Scott Family Farms, East New York Farms, Wanson Family Farm, Mill Creek Farm, Burnell Farms, Metro Atlanta Urban Farm, Five Seeds Farm, Bed Stuy Farm Share, The BLK Projek, and Southeastern African American Farmers’ Organic Network (SAAFON).
These and a few more who remain are in serious need of support from the Black community, or we risk the obvious, which is frustration from an old system, and eventually foreclosure or tax sale.
Black people must do more to support their own, and rally behind their own to protect Black interests and help build the diminishing black wealth.
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