Documented Land taken away from New Afrikans/Blacks through trickery , violence and Murder

Two thousand have been collected in recent years by the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, S.C., an educational institution established for freed slaves during the Civil War. The Land Loss Prevention Project, a group of lawyers in Durham, N.C., who represent blacks in land disputes, said it receives new reports daily. And Heather Gray of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Atlanta said her organization has ”file cabinets full of complaints.”

AP’s findings ”are just the tip of one of the biggest crimes of this country’s history,” said Ray Winbush, director of Fisk University’s Institute of Race Relations.

Some examples of land takings documented by the AP:

•After midnight on Oct. 4, 1908, 50 hooded white men surrounded the home of a black farmer in Hickman, Ky., and ordered him to come out for a whipping. When David Walker refused and shot at them instead, the mob poured coal oil on his house and set it afire, according to contemporary newspaper accounts. Pleading for mercy, Walker ran out the front door, followed by four screaming children and his wife, carrying a baby in her arms. The mob shot them all, wounding three children and killing the others. Walker’s oldest son never escaped the burning house. No one was ever charged with the killings, and the surviving children were deprived of the farm their father died defending. Land records show that Walker’s 2 1/2-acre farm was simply folded into the property of a white neighbor. The neighbor soon sold it to another man, whose daughter owns the undeveloped land today.

• In the 1950s and 1960s, a Chevrolet dealer in Holmes County, Miss., acquired hundreds of acres from black farmers by foreclosing on small loans for farm equipment and pickup trucks. Norman Weathersby, then the only dealer in the area, required the farmers to put up their land as security for the loans, county residents who dealt with him said. And the equipment he sold them, they said, often broke down shortly thereafter. Weathersby’s friend, William E. Strider, ran the local Farmers Home Administration – the credit lifeline for many Southern farmers. Area residents, including Erma Russell, 81, said Strider, now dead, was often slow in releasing farm operating loans to blacks. When cash-poor farmers missed payments owed to Weathersby, he took their land. The AP documented eight cases in which Weathersby acquired black-owned farms this way. When he died in 1973, he left more than 700 acres of this land to his family, according to estate papers, deeds and court records.

• In 1964, the state of Alabama sued Lemon Williams and Lawrence Hudson, claiming the cousins had no right to two 40-acre farms their family had worked in Sweet Water, Ala., for nearly a century. The land, officials contended, belonged to the state. Circuit Judge Emmett F. Hildreth urged the state to drop its suit, declaring it would result in ”a severe injustice.” But when the state refused, saying it wanted income from timber on the land, the judge ruled against the family. Today, the land lies empty; the state recently opened some of it to logging. The state’s internal memos and letters on the case are peppered with references to the family’s race.

In the same courthouse where the case was heard, the AP located deeds and tax records documenting that the family had owned the land since an ancestor bought the property on Jan. 3, 1874. Surviving records also show the family paid property taxes on the farms from the mid-1950s until the land was taken.

AP reporters tracked the land cases by reviewing deeds, mortgages, tax records, estate papers, court proceedings, surveyor maps, oil and gas leases, marriage records, census listings, birth records, death certificates and Freedmen’s Bureau archives. Additional documents, including FBI files and Farmers Home Administration records, were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Case of Richmond Virginia Bryan Logan, a 55-year-old sports writer from Washington, D.C., was researching his heritage when he uncovered a connection to 264 acres of riverfront property in Richmond, Va.

 

 

Today, the land is Willow Oaks, an almost exclusively white country club with an assessed value of $2.94 million. But in the 1850s, it was a corn-and-wheat plantation worked by the Howlett slaves – Logan’s ancestors.

Their owner, Thomas Howlett, directed in his will that his 15 slaves be freed, that his plantation be sold and that the slaves receive the proceeds. When he died in 1856, his white relatives challenged the will, but two courts upheld it.

Yet the freed slaves never got a penny.

Benjamin Hatcher, the executor of the estate, simply took over the plantation, court records show. He cleared the timber and mined the stone, providing granite for the Navy and War Department buildings in Washington and the capitol in Richmond, according to records in the National Archives.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, the former slaves complained to the occupying Union Army, which ordered Virginia courts to investigate.

Hatcher testified that he had sold the plantation in 1862 -apparently to his son, Thomas -but had not given the proceeds to the former slaves. Instead, court papers show, the proceeds were invested on their behalf in Confederate War Bonds. There is nothing in the public record to suggest the former slaves wanted their money used to support the Southern war effort.

Moreover, the bonds were purchased in the former slaves’ names in 1864 – a dubious investment at best in the fourth year of the war. Within months, Union armies were marching on Atlanta and Richmond, and the bonds were worthless pieces of paper.

The blacks insisted they were never given even that, but in 1871, Virginia’s highest court ruled that Hatcher was innocent of wrongdoing and that the former slaves were owed nothing.

The following year, the plantation was broken up and sold at a public auction. Hatcher’s son received the proceeds, county records show. In the 1930s, a Richmond businessman cobbled the estate back together; he sold it to Willow Oaks Corp. in 1955 for an unspecified amount.

”I don’t hold anything against Willow Oaks,” Logan said. ”But how Virginia’s courts acted, how they allowed the land to be stolen – it goes against everything Amerikkka stands for.” Documented Land taken away from New Afrikans/Blacks through trickery , violence and Murder

Two thousand have been collected in recent years by the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, S.C., an educational institution established for freed slaves during the Civil War. The Land Loss Prevention Project, a group of lawyers in Durham, N.C., who represent blacks in land disputes, said it receives new reports daily. And Heather Gray of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Atlanta said her organization has ”file cabinets full of complaints.”

AP’s findings ”are just the tip of one of the biggest crimes of this country’s history,” said Ray Winbush, director of Fisk University’s Institute of Race Relations.

Some examples of land takings documented by the AP:

•After midnight on Oct. 4, 1908, 50 hooded white men surrounded the home of a black farmer in Hickman, Ky., and ordered him to come out for a whipping. When David Walker refused and shot at them instead, the mob poured coal oil on his house and set it afire, according to contemporary newspaper accounts. Pleading for mercy, Walker ran out the front door, followed by four screaming children and his wife, carrying a baby in her arms. The mob shot them all, wounding three children and killing the others. Walker’s oldest son never escaped the burning house. No one was ever charged with the killings, and the surviving children were deprived of the farm their father died defending. Land records show that Walker’s 2 1/2-acre farm was simply folded into the property of a white neighbor. The neighbor soon sold it to another man, whose daughter owns the undeveloped land today.

• In the 1950s and 1960s, a Chevrolet dealer in Holmes County, Miss., acquired hundreds of acres from black farmers by foreclosing on small loans for farm equipment and pickup trucks. Norman Weathersby, then the only dealer in the area, required the farmers to put up their land as security for the loans, county residents who dealt with him said. And the equipment he sold them, they said, often broke down shortly thereafter. Weathersby’s friend, William E. Strider, ran the local Farmers Home Administration – the credit lifeline for many Southern farmers. Area residents, including Erma Russell, 81, said Strider, now dead, was often slow in releasing farm operating loans to blacks. When cash-poor farmers missed payments owed to Weathersby, he took their land. The AP documented eight cases in which Weathersby acquired black-owned farms this way. When he died in 1973, he left more than 700 acres of this land to his family, according to estate papers, deeds and court records.

• In 1964, the state of Alabama sued Lemon Williams and Lawrence Hudson, claiming the cousins had no right to two 40-acre farms their family had worked in Sweet Water, Ala., for nearly a century. The land, officials contended, belonged to the state. Circuit Judge Emmett F. Hildreth urged the state to drop its suit, declaring it would result in ”a severe injustice.” But when the state refused, saying it wanted income from timber on the land, the judge ruled against the family. Today, the land lies empty; the state recently opened some of it to logging. The state’s internal memos and letters on the case are peppered with references to the family’s race.

In the same courthouse where the case was heard, the AP located deeds and tax records documenting that the family had owned the land since an ancestor bought the property on Jan. 3, 1874. Surviving records also show the family paid property taxes on the farms from the mid-1950s until the land was taken.

AP reporters tracked the land cases by reviewing deeds, mortgages, tax records, estate papers, court proceedings, surveyor maps, oil and gas leases, marriage records, census listings, birth records, death certificates and Freedmen’s Bureau archives. Additional documents, including FBI files and Farmers Home Administration records, were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Case of Richmond Virginia Bryan Logan, a 55-year-old sports writer from Washington, D.C., was researching his heritage when he uncovered a connection to 264 acres of riverfront property in Richmond, Va.

Today, the land is Willow Oaks, an almost exclusively white country club with an assessed value of $2.94 million. But in the 1850s, it was a corn-and-wheat plantation worked by the Howlett slaves – Logan’s ancestors.

Their owner, Thomas Howlett, directed in his will that his 15 slaves be freed, that his plantation be sold and that the slaves receive the proceeds. When he died in 1856, his white relatives challenged the will, but two courts upheld it.

Yet the freed slaves never got a penny.

Benjamin Hatcher, the executor of the estate, simply took over the plantation, court records show. He cleared the timber and mined the stone, providing granite for the Navy and War Department buildings in Washington and the capitol in Richmond, according to records in the National Archives.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, the former slaves complained to the occupying Union Army, which ordered Virginia courts to investigate.

Hatcher testified that he had sold the plantation in 1862 -apparently to his son, Thomas -but had not given the proceeds to the former slaves. Instead, court papers show, the proceeds were invested on their behalf in Confederate War Bonds. There is nothing in the public record to suggest the former slaves wanted their money used to support the Southern war effort.

Moreover, the bonds were purchased in the former slaves’ names in 1864 – a dubious investment at best in the fourth year of the war. Within months, Union armies were marching on Atlanta and Richmond, and the bonds were worthless pieces of paper.

The blacks insisted they were never given even that, but in 1871, Virginia’s highest court ruled that Hatcher was innocent of wrongdoing and that the former slaves were owed nothing.

The following year, the plantation was broken up and sold at a public auction. Hatcher’s son received the proceeds, county records show. In the 1930s, a Richmond businessman cobbled the estate back together; he sold it to Willow Oaks Corp. in 1955 for an unspecified amount.

”I don’t hold anything against Willow Oaks,” Logan said. ”But how Virginia’s courts acted, how they allowed the land to be stolen – it goes against everything Amerikkka stands for.” Documented Land taken away from New Afrikans/Blacks through trickery , violence and Murder

Two thousand have been collected in recent years by the Penn Center on St. Helena Island, S.C., an educational institution established for freed slaves during the Civil War. The Land Loss Prevention Project, a group of lawyers in Durham, N.C., who represent blacks in land disputes, said it receives new reports daily. And Heather Gray of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Atlanta said her organization has ”file cabinets full of complaints.”

AP’s findings ”are just the tip of one of the biggest crimes of this country’s history,” said Ray Winbush, director of Fisk University’s Institute of Race Relations.

Some examples of land takings documented by the AP:

•After midnight on Oct. 4, 1908, 50 hooded white men surrounded the home of a black farmer in Hickman, Ky., and ordered him to come out for a whipping. When David Walker refused and shot at them instead, the mob poured coal oil on his house and set it afire, according to contemporary newspaper accounts. Pleading for mercy, Walker ran out the front door, followed by four screaming children and his wife, carrying a baby in her arms. The mob shot them all, wounding three children and killing the others. Walker’s oldest son never escaped the burning house. No one was ever charged with the killings, and the surviving children were deprived of the farm their father died defending. Land records show that Walker’s 2 1/2-acre farm was simply folded into the property of a white neighbor. The neighbor soon sold it to another man, whose daughter owns the undeveloped land today.

• In the 1950s and 1960s, a Chevrolet dealer in Holmes County, Miss., acquired hundreds of acres from black farmers by foreclosing on small loans for farm equipment and pickup trucks. Norman Weathersby, then the only dealer in the area, required the farmers to put up their land as security for the loans, county residents who dealt with him said. And the equipment he sold them, they said, often broke down shortly thereafter. Weathersby’s friend, William E. Strider, ran the local Farmers Home Administration – the credit lifeline for many Southern farmers. Area residents, including Erma Russell, 81, said Strider, now dead, was often slow in releasing farm operating loans to blacks. When cash-poor farmers missed payments owed to Weathersby, he took their land. The AP documented eight cases in which Weathersby acquired black-owned farms this way. When he died in 1973, he left more than 700 acres of this land to his family, according to estate papers, deeds and court records.

• In 1964, the state of Alabama sued Lemon Williams and Lawrence Hudson, claiming the cousins had no right to two 40-acre farms their family had worked in Sweet Water, Ala., for nearly a century. The land, officials contended, belonged to the state. Circuit Judge Emmett F. Hildreth urged the state to drop its suit, declaring it would result in ”a severe injustice.” But when the state refused, saying it wanted income from timber on the land, the judge ruled against the family. Today, the land lies empty; the state recently opened some of it to logging. The state’s internal memos and letters on the case are peppered with references to the family’s race.

In the same courthouse where the case was heard, the AP located deeds and tax records documenting that the family had owned the land since an ancestor bought the property on Jan. 3, 1874. Surviving records also show the family paid property taxes on the farms from the mid-1950s until the land was taken.

AP reporters tracked the land cases by reviewing deeds, mortgages, tax records, estate papers, court proceedings, surveyor maps, oil and gas leases, marriage records, census listings, birth records, death certificates and Freedmen’s Bureau archives. Additional documents, including FBI files and Farmers Home Administration records, were obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

Case of Richmond Virginia Bryan Logan, a 55-year-old sports writer from Washington, D.C., was researching his heritage when he uncovered a connection to 264 acres of riverfront property in Richmond, Va.

Today, the land is Willow Oaks, an almost exclusively white country club with an assessed value of $2.94 million. But in the 1850s, it was a corn-and-wheat plantation worked by the Howlett slaves – Logan’s ancestors.

Their owner, Thomas Howlett, directed in his will that his 15 slaves be freed, that his plantation be sold and that the slaves receive the proceeds. When he died in 1856, his white relatives challenged the will, but two courts upheld it.

Yet the freed slaves never got a penny.

Benjamin Hatcher, the executor of the estate, simply took over the plantation, court records show. He cleared the timber and mined the stone, providing granite for the Navy and War Department buildings in Washington and the capitol in Richmond, according to records in the National Archives.

When the Civil War ended in 1865, the former slaves complained to the occupying Union Army, which ordered Virginia courts to investigate.

Hatcher testified that he had sold the plantation in 1862 -apparently to his son, Thomas -but had not given the proceeds to the former slaves. Instead, court papers show, the proceeds were invested on their behalf in Confederate War Bonds. There is nothing in the public record to suggest the former slaves wanted their money used to support the Southern war effort.

Moreover, the bonds were purchased in the former slaves’ names in 1864 – a dubious investment at best in the fourth year of the war. Within months, Union armies were marching on Atlanta and Richmond, and the bonds were worthless pieces of paper.

The blacks insisted they were never given even that, but in 1871, Virginia’s highest court ruled that Hatcher was innocent of wrongdoing and that the former slaves were owed nothing.

The following year, the plantation was broken up and sold at a public auction. Hatcher’s son received the proceeds, county records show. In the 1930s, a Richmond businessman cobbled the estate back together; he sold it to Willow Oaks Corp. in 1955 for an unspecified amount.

”I don’t hold anything against Willow Oaks,” Logan said. ”But how Virginia’s courts acted, how they allowed the land to be stolen – it goes against everything Amerikkka stands for…

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