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Study Shows Black Farmers Lost $326 Billion Worth Of Land Over Decades

Photo: Getty Images

 

By Zuri Anderson

A new study is highlighting how state-sanctioned discrimination has financially disenfranchised Black farmers for generations.

Black farmers lost over $326 billion worth of land during the 20th century, according to research published Sunday (May 1) in the American Economic Association’s Papers and Proceedings journal, per Reuters. Researchers found that racial discrimination and violence permitted by state laws ultimately led to a steep decline in Black-owned acreage between 1922 and 1977. They reportedly analyzed U.S. Department of Agriculture census data to determine their findings.

Land ownership can provide ample opportunities to build wealth in the United States and can address the racial wealth gap separating most Black families and households from their white counterparts, according to Dania Francis, the lead author of the study and economist at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.

“The past has intergenerational consequences,” Francis says. “While other Americans at the time were able to build wealth, through land ownership and homeownership, those black families whose land was dispossessed didn’t have that opportunity.”

Even then, the author says the $326 billion could be a more conservative estimate since they didn’t take into account the land Black households could have reinvested in business and education. Overall, she hopes that this study can help illustrate the need for reparations.

“It’s important to put a numerical value on it that should be the measure we use when thinking about reparations,” said Francis. “We’re actually empirically estimating the dollars that left the Black community.”

This study comes as Black farmers continue fighting for the release of $4 billion worth of funding provided by the American Rescue Plan. That money has remained frozen ever since white farmers filed a lawsuit to block the release of the funds, claiming the measure discriminates against them.

“The USDA Has a documented history of discriminating against Black people and communities of color,” Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said in October 2021. “The federal government’s attempt to rectify this injustice should be applauded, not stopped.”

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