From Sat Dec 8 12:00:16 2001
Date: Fri, 7 Dec 2001 23:12:09 -0600 (CST)
From: Marpessa Kupendua <>
Subject: !*AP Documents Land Taken From Blacks Through Trickery,
Article: 131655
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Torn From the Land (part ? of 3)

By Todd Lewan and Delores Barclay, Associated Press, [7 December 2001]

AP Documents Land Taken From Blacks Through Trickery, Violence and Murder

For generations, black families passed down the tales in uneasy whispers:

They stole our land. These were family secrets shared after the children fell asleep, after neighbors turned down the lamps—old stories locked in fear and shame.

Some of those whispered bits of oral history, it turns out, are true.

In an 18-month investigation, The Associated Press documented a pattern in which black Americans were cheated out of their land or driven from it through intimidation, violence and even murder.

In some cases, government officials approved the land takings; in others, they took part in them. The earliest occurred before the Civil War; others are being litigated today.

Some of the land taken from black families has become a country club in Virginia, oil fields in Mississippi, a major-league baseball spring training facility in Florida.

The United States has a long history of bitter, often violent land disputes, from claim jumping in the gold fields to range wars in the old West to broken treaties with American Indians. Poor white landowners, too, were sometimes treated unfairly, pressured to sell out at rock-bottom prices by railroads and lumber and mining companies.

The fate of black landowners has been an overlooked part of this story.

The AP—in an investigation that included interviews with more than 1,000 people and the examination of tens of thousands of public records in county courthouses and state and federal archives—documented 107 land takings in 13 Southern and border states.

In those cases alone, 406 black landowners lost more than 24,000 acres of farm and timber land plus 85 smaller properties, including stores and city lots. Today, virtually all of this property, valued at tens of millions of dollars, is owned by whites or by corporations.

Properties taken from blacks were often small—a 40-acre farm, a general store, a modest house. But the losses were devastating to families struggling to overcome the legacy of slavery. In the agrarian South, landownership was the ladder to respect and prosperity—the means to building economic security and passing wealth on to the next generation.

When black families lost their land, they lost all of this.

Some examples of land takings documented by the AP