Loss of Black Land Ownership

Lack of Help from Government Agencies

It is well known that after slaves had been emancipated and freed that African Americans had not been given the proper resources necessary to establish themselves in the country. For the few that had been able to obtain land and other property through private means, they still needed help from the government. Bur rather the government made explicit actions to deprive African American farmers and landowners of their share of government subsidies and aid. These actions by the government to put minority farmers needs as second hand to their white counterparts could be seen in the 1999 case of Pigford vs Glickman. This case showed that within 1983 to 1997 that black farmers had been less likely to receive federal loans from the government and on average their loan sizes had been much smaller in comparison to the loans given to white male farmers.

Heirs Property

One of the main reasons for the loss of land by African Americans is the concept of heir’s property. Heirs property is defined as “land that has been passed down informally from generation-to-generation. Heirs’ property is land owned in common by all of the heirs, regardless of whether they live on the land, pay the taxes, or have ever set foot on the land” by the USDA. Heirs property is often the result of people passing on without a will in place that declares who property rights would fall to. Heirs property has a prominent effect on black communities and land ownership in the south. African Americans after emancipation did not have much access to legal aid or resources. Because of this will weren’t written for many black landowners.

”Heir property is the leading cause of Black involuntary land loss. According to the Census Bureau, 80 percent of land owned by Blacks has been lost since 1910 due to heir property.” - USDA

Currently there organizations like the Center for Heirs Property that help to resolve the crisis of heirs property. The Center for Heirs Property is a nonprofit that gives descendants of landowners caught in the trouble of heirs property disputes legal advice and representation. This organization is located in South Carolina and only takes cases of property located in a specific section of the state. Their site can be found here.

Loss of Black Land Ownership