The Great Land Robbery: How 1 Million Black Families Had Their Farms And Inheritance Stolen

The Great Land Robbery: How 1 Million Black Families Had Their Farms And Inheritance Stolen

FILE – In this June 25, 2018, file photo, Tyrone Grayer, left, and David Allen Hall inspect a soybean plant at their farm in Parchman, Miss. A judge is ordering settlement talks in a lawsuit filed by black farmers from Mississippi and Tennessee including Hall and Grayer, who claim Stine Seed Co. sold them faulty soybean seeds because of their race. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz, File)

Black families at one point had an impressive amount of land. Blacks farmed their land, made a living, and passed their farms down generation to generation.

“At the turn of the 20th century, formerly enslaved Black people and their heirs owned 15 million acres of land, primarily in the South, mostly used for farming. In 1920, the 925,000 African-American farms represented 14 percent of the farms in America,” Atlanta Black Star reported.

But by 1975, more than 600,000 Black farmers were forced off their land. Only 45,000 Black farms remained. Currently, Blacks are only 1 percent of rural landowners in the U.S., and under 2 percent of farmers, according to AP.

How did this happen? A variety of reasons are behind the loss of land.

One has been unfair loans and during the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to settle with Black farmers for $2.3 billion for discrimination in farm loans and other government programs.

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There has also been a land grab of Black farms going on throughout the years. The Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, for example, now owns more than 80,000 acres in Mississippi alone, most of them in the Delta. And from who did they get a lot of this land? Back farmers.

“If the fertile crescent of Arkansas is included, TIAA holds more than 130,000 acres in a strip of counties along the Mississippi River. And TIAA is not the only big corporate landlord in the region. Hancock Agricultural Investment Group manages more than 65,000 acres in what it calls the ‘Delta states.’ The real-estate trust Farmland Partners has 30,000 acres in and around the Delta. AgriVest, a subsidiary of the Swiss bank UBS, owned 22,000 acres as of 2011,” The Atlantic reported.

Currently, there is no aid to help rebuild Black farms or to encourage Blacks to enter farming.

“The Black farmers who have managed to hold on to their farms eke out a living today. They make less than $40,000 annually, compared with over $190,000 by white farmers, which is probably because their average acreage is about one-quarter that of white farmers,” The Guardian reported.