Lest We Forget - African American Military History by Researcher, 
				Author and Veteran Bennie McRae, Jr.

Land Loss summit seeking to stem national decline in Black land claims

Land Loss summit seeking to stem national decline in Black land claims

By Earnest McBride
Jackson Advocate Contributing Writer

©2004. Earnest McBride. Published in the April 15-21, 2004 edition of the Jackson Advocate. Posted by permission.



The U. S. Department of Agriculture has defaulted on the 1999 Pickford versus Glickman settlement that thousands of black farmers looked upon as minimal redress for years of discrimination in the allocation of farm loans and crop support. Black farmers and landholders nationwide are scheduled to meet at the Fifth Annual National Black Land Loss Summit in Tillery, North Carolina, April 23-25, to recover from the disappointing payoff of the "settlement."

Dormitory accommodations are available at the historic Bricks School that served as a teacher-training institute for black schools in rural North Carolina. Reservations and information are available at: (252) 826-2800.

"The African American people are becoming a landless people in the United States," leaders of the Black Farmers Association have warned people under threat of losing property nationwide. "We are losing the land and wealth that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents worked, fought and died to acquire for us. We owe our ancestral warriors a debt. The USDA has not helped us. Who will help us? We must help ourselves."

Some major topics scheduled are: Heir property, co-ops, Hunting Rights of land use, Estate planning, alternative economics and diversification. The two-day meeting will be held in Tillery at the historic Franklinton Center in Bricks. Tillery is an unincorporated farm community with a 98 percent African American population, according to summit planner Gary R. Grant, president of the Black Farmers and Agricultural Association and director of the Land Loss Fund.

"Tillery," says Grant, "typifies the many crossroads rural communities in which poverty, high unemployment, persistent racial inequities and isolation create the visible conditions of apathy and hopelessness and a propensity for victimization. A finally recognized issue also is the growing elderly population in Tillery and other rural communities, especially in the Black Belt South."

The nation has seen a rapid and disproportionate decline in the black farm population since the Federal Farm Loan Act was passed in 1916, ostensibly to keep farmers from losing their farms and other properties.

Yet the loan program under the administration of the USDA and has worked to the detriment of black farmers. In  1920, one of seven farmers was African American. In 1982, only one in 67farmers was black.

"Since the establishment of the Federal Farm Loan Act," Grant says, "the number of farms operated by African Americans has decreased by 99.9 percent."

The black farmers' lawsuit of 1999 under the Clinton Administration was supposed to have made amends for the many years of discrimination. But more than 40 percent of the black farmers have received nothing from the settlement and have been consistently denied, Grant says.

"Instead of looking to offer reparations," Grant says, "former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, the USDA and the Department of Justice played legal and political games with Black farmers, further undermining their dignity and self-respect."

Grant urges black owners of farm property who are under pressure to yield all or part of their lands to predators of various stripes to attend the summit or at the least to contact BFAA or the Land Loss Fund.

"If African American people don't come together on the need for land ownership," Grant says, "then we will be destined to become like other poor Third World people. Our theme at BFAA is: A landless people is a hopeless people."


Category: | Subcategory: | Tags: North Carolina
Related Topics / Keywords / Phrases: 1916, 1920, 1982, 1999, 2004, African American, GE, Jack, Jackson, North Carolina, Old,