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Biden’s “Lift Every Voice” Proposal Appeals to Black Misleaders

Black Agenda Radio with Margaret Kimberley and Glen Ford

11 May 2020

Black Alliance for Peace national organizer Ajamu Baraka said de facto Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s “Lift Every Voice” plan for Black America “assumes that all you have to do is provide a few little tweeks to the system and everything will be just fine.” But, “the US economy has collapsed and the impact on Black workers is profound.” Baraka, the 2016 Green Party vice presidential candidate, said only the Black Misleadership Class will sing the praises of Biden’s “symbolic, paternalistic crumbs.”

READ MORE AT: https://www.blackagendareport.com/bidens-lift-every-voice-proposal-appeals-black-misleaders

When Maternity Wards in Black Neighborhoods Disappear

Experts fear that closures will become a trend nationwide because of the covid-19 virus, devastating an already vulnerable population

Dr. Joi Bradshaw-Terrell provides obstetric care to the majority-black population in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where three nearby maternity wards have shut down in the past year.
Dr. Joi Bradshaw-Terrell provides obstetric care to the majority-black population in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, where three nearby maternity wards have shut down in the past year. Credit…Joshua Lott for The New York Times

By Kelly GlassMay 5, 2020

Shamya Bland had both of her children at St. Bernard Hospital in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. When she found out the hospital would stop delivering babies until further notice “to respond more effectively to the increase in patients who are sick with the Covid-19 coronavirus,” according to an announcement issued on its Facebook page, she was devastated. “It’s heartbreaking,” she said. “It’s in the heart of the hood. Most black people in the neighborhood were going to go there.”

Englewood, which is 95 percent black, is slowly becoming a maternity-care desert, with two other nearby hospitals closing their maternity wards within the past year. St. Bernard Hospital has coordinated transporting women in labor to Mercy Hospital, about six miles north, according to St. Bernard’s media relations representative David Rudd, but transportation is not the main concern for doctors and patients in the neighborhood.

Research has shown that black patients receive better care and communication when they see black doctors. Official statistics weren’t available, but St. Bernard boasts a racially diverse care team, according to staff members like Dr. Joi Bradshaw-Terrell, M.D., an OB-GYN. “There’s a trust factor,” Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell said. “We have black men and women taking care of you. We got you.”

Black women in America are three times more likely to die of pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes than white women are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Chicago, that tragic disparity doubles, with black women six times more likely than white women to die because of pregnancy and childbirth and even more experiencing injury or trauma.

Bland, 24, came back to Chicago to give birth after moving more than two hours west to a town near the border of Iowa, seeking a doctor she could trust. “I was five months pregnant and having heart palpitations. I knew something wasn’t right, and my doctor kept telling me it was fine,” she said. He told her it was her weight and her heart “pumping for two.”

Bland drove to St. Bernard Hospital to see a black doctor, who quickly ordered EKGs and a CT scan and told her she had a heart condition — the leading cause of maternal death. “I was out there with new doctors and new faces, and I was kind of getting blown off,” she said. “But here I got taken care of and treated as if I actually mattered.”

Her story could have ended differently, and she’s concerned for the fate of the women in Chicago’s South Side neighborhood whose birth stories will soon unfold in a different hospital than they originally planned. Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell shares that concern.

“It’s a big disadvantage to our population in Englewood,” she said. “Black women have more pre-eclampsia, more hypertension, gestational diabetes. People here are high-risk, and to feel like you have abandoned them is a horrible feeling.”

A 2019 study, among others, found that patient outcomes are better when hospitals not only understand but also focus on the experiences of the communities and populations they serve as part of the care they give. Racial bias in health care and consequently black people’s distrust of the health care system are well documented. Hospitals in black communities that employ black doctors and health care workers combat this by reimagining health care to fit the needs of their population, Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell said.

“Half of the time I’m basically a social worker and a psychologist. If you don’t have water at home, I’ll bring you a case of water,” she said. “I don’t have to do that, but these are real-life issues.”

Disregarding the importance of race, poverty, gender and other social factors on health outcomes makes it all too easy for institutions to prioritize the financial bottom line over saving lives, say those who track the connection between race and health outcomes.

Andre Perry, a fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution think tank and author of “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities,”said that as the coronavirus pandemic moves the United States into an economic downturn, cities and states will start looking to cut budgets.

“They’ll create austerity measures,” Perry said. “Oftentimes that means shutting down resources or assets in the black community. Black people and our assets are sort of like sacrificial lambs of this virus.”

Budget-driven closures of both urban and rural hospitals have plagued communities nationwide over the past decade. Since 2010, nearly 130 rural hospitals have closed, leading to an increase in births without proper obstetric care and preterm births in rural areas.

Dr. Laurie Zephyrin, M.D., vice president of delivery system reform at the Commonwealth Fund, an independent health care research foundation, said inner-city hospitals and safety-net hospitals (which see patients regardless of financial or insurance status) tend to run on tight operating margins, putting some of their health care services at risk. “When it becomes about funding and it becomes a budget issue, they forget about the people we’re trying to serve,” Dr. Zephyrin said.

It’s the people — the black women living in neighborhoods marked by poverty, violence and the chronic stress they both cause — that Dr. Bradshaw-Terrell worries about most. “I have a lot of patients say if they wanted to deliver at another hospital, they would have gotten care there. They trust me. They know we’re going to take care of them, and now we can’t,” she said, expressing concern that some patients might skip out on prenatal appointments altogether and show up at an unfamiliar hospital while in labor.

READ MORE AT: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/05/parenting/coronavirus-black-maternal-mortality.html

How to Fight the Black Tax

How to Fight the Black Tax

Author and personal finance consultant Shawn Rochester, ’02, discusses how to address the financial costs of conscious and unconscious anti-black discrimination.

Personal finance consultant Shawn Rochester, ’02, noticed something curious about the many studies and articles written about racial discrimination.

“Over the years I would read articles and studies about discrimination against black people in various markets—for example, housing, automotive, financial services, the job search, etc.—and the impact of that discrimination just seemed like a tax to me,” he said.

Rochester is CEO of Connecticut-based Good Steward LLC, a financial advisory and education company that uses workshops, coaching, and online courses to help people—mainly African Americans, such as Rochester himself—manage cash flow, eliminate debt, and maximize retirement assets. He sees clients who, despite successful careers, aren’t on track to retire in comfort.

“There is a category of folks whom some would consider to have robust incomes, but they lack information about how to maximize their cash flow or how to reduce debt and maximize their assets at retirement by using vehicles like the tax-deferred retirement plans that are already in place for us,” he said. While these people generally don’t have the balance sheet to attract high-quality financial advice or coaching, they actually could accumulate significant resources if they had access to better information. Rochester’s mother faced a similar problem when she emigrated from Barbados to the United States. “She was a motivated saver but didn’t know what to do and wasn’t around people who could give her good advice,” he said.

In helping individuals with their finances, Rochester became concerned with the broader questions of why the African American community had an ingrained deficit in wealth and what individuals could do about it. This led him to write a book, The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America. Rochester spoke with Chicago Booth Magazine’s

CBM: What is the Black Tax?

Rochester: The Black Tax is the financial cost of discrimination against black people in America by people and/or institutions that have conscious or unconscious antiblack bias.

CBM: Why did you decide to write this book?

Rochester: I wrote The Black Tax because I wanted to help reduce the wealth gap by creating a paradigm shift that would help create jobs and businesses, and expand businesses in the black community by increasing the demand for products, services, and intellectual capital from black people and companies. I knew that simply asking people to buy products and services from black-owned companieswould not be very effective because many people view doing business with black entrepreneurs as a charity or a cost. I learned long ago that if you want people to act differently, you must get them to think differently. So I looked at research from the finest institutions in the country to see if I could quantify the financial costs of past and current antiblack discrimination. The results were shocking because the impact, scale, and continuity of antiblack discrimination was and still is far larger than what most people would have expected. This robust, data-driven approach generally helps readers to see the problem with greater clarity and gets them thinking about what they can do to help solve it.

CBM: The problems you describe seem so overwhelming. Where do you even start?

Rochester: Black people in America own just 2 percent of US wealth. This means that 1.4 million businesses with employees, 6 million jobs associated with those businesses, and well over $8 trillion in wealth that should belong to the black community are simply not there. These gaps in jobs, businesses, and wealth are driving almost all of the socioeconomic problems affecting the black community. So yes, these challenges can appear to be overwhelming.

The first thing we should start with is a focus on what we can do together to help close these gaps. In the final section of The Black Tax, I talk about an economic framework called PHD, which stands for “Purchase, Hire, and Deposit” in ways that create jobs and create and expand businesses in the black community. PHD accomplishes this by ensuring that (1) a greater portion of consumer spending is aimed at black enterprise, (2) black people and businesses are properly represented on payrolls and in supply chains, and (3) more resources are placed in black financial institutions to ensure that these businesses have the capital they need to grow.

This is important because Americans spend very little on black enterprise at all. For example, governments spend less than 2 percent of their supply chain expenditures on black businesses. Corporations and institutions spend less than 2 percent of their supply chain expenditures on black businesses, and even black consumers spend about 2 percent of their collective incomes on black business. In addition to this, only about $4 out of every $10,000 in the US banking system is in a black bank. This dearth of spending with black enterprise stifles job creation and business development in the black community. Because spending and investment levels with black enterprise are currently so low, even small changes in our spending and deposit levels can have an enormous impact on job creation.

CBM: What about diversity programs in hiring and purchasing? Are those working?

Rochester: These programs are well-intentioned but have not been particularly effective. As I’ve mentioned, supply chain spending with black business is extremely low, despite decades of efforts and black participation rates in almost all high-growth, high-compensation fields. And even at these very low participation rates, black people earn far less than their white peers, regardless of their education level. It would be a stretch to claim that these programs are working unless your comparison is the Jim Crow period of legal segregation, where black people were barred outright from participating, regardless of skill or competency level. In those days, the supply chain spend with black enterprise was effectively zero and today it is less than 2 percent. Given the data, and the roughly 74 years since the end of the Jim Crow period, one would be hard-pressed to say that these programs are working. Part of the problem is that terms such as diversity, minority, and inclusion, while well-intentioned, do not mean black. Those terms are generally euphemisms for “not white male.” This is why companies can have “effective” diversity programs while having marginal to no impact on creating jobs and businesses in the black community.

For example, a company could decide to create economic opportunities for women by allocating more of their supply chain spend to women-owned businesses, which is a wonderful thing to do. If we look at women-owned businesses that have employees, we find that they generate about $1.2 trillion a year in revenue. But if we ask how much of that revenue is from black-women-owned businesses, we find that it’s less than 2 percent of the total. So for every $100 of incremental supply chain spend on women-owned businesses, it’s not until the 99th dollar that black women see any benefit.

Knowing this information helps decision-makers better understand the true scope of the problem. Because people associate minority, diversity, and inclusion programs with black people, they tend to think that the major beneficiaries of these programs are black people, which is not the case, particularly when it comes to supply chain spending.

CBM: Are there ways to get more African Americans to start more businesses?

Rochester: Yes, we can certainly create more black businesses and service providers, but the issue is, will there be incremental demand for those businesses? While most people focus on the supply side (i.e., creating more black enterprises), and we certainly need that, what I’m trying to do is focus on the demand side (i.e., creating more demand for black businesses), and that requires a paradigm shift from consumers, corporations, institutions, and governments. Research indicates that the level of antiblack bias in America generally ranges from high to very high, and that bias affects just about every facet of our lives, including commerce, and this is a significant hindrance to business development and job creation.

CBM: How do you get people to buy within their own community?

Rochester: If you look at the historical narrative, black people in America have not had the opportunity to create a critical mass of thriving economic enclaves because we were subjected to a particularly brutal and effective form of economic segregation. This impoverished large swaths of the black population. And, in general, when customers are economically deprived, it’s hard for businesses to thrive, and the costs are much higher. This led to a lower concentration of high levels of business success and caused many people to associate lower quality levels with black businesses, which fueled a bias against black enterprise.

Part of what I want to do is shake that kind of biased thinking and behavior by creating a positive association between commercializing black enterprise and facilitating job creation in the black community. The idea is to stimulate the demand for our products and services and provide the capital to finance the resulting growth. This also applies to the black community, since our spending levels on black enterprise are very low. For example, while the purchasing power of the black community is about $1.2 trillion and supports about 24 million jobs in the US economy, less than 2 percent of that spend is on black businesses, and the vast majority of those jobs are outside of the black community. This—coupled with the fact that the vast majority of the companies who are recipients of black consumer spending (and thousands more who are not) do not practice PHD—further depresses job creation and business development in the black community. At the end of the day, a material shift away from the current 2 percent levels will have a massive economic impact by creating more jobs, businesses, and wealth in the black community.

READ MORE AT: https://www.chicagobooth.edu/magazine/blog/2019/shawn-rochester-the-black-tax

Young Black Americans who want to explore their roots can take a free birthright trip to Africa. Here’s how

By Alaa Elassar

Scholars drumming with artisans from the Arts Centre Market in Accra, Ghana.

Scholars drumming with artisans from the Arts Centre Market in Accra, Ghana.

(CNN)There are a lot of things that make up who we are as people. Our physical features, our pet peeves, our passions — and our roots. It’s a puzzle we spend our entire lives trying to finish.As human beings, we are complex and difficult to understand. But sometimes, looking back at where we came from and discovering the successes, struggles and sacrifices of our ancestors can make that puzzle a bit more complete.For young black people, that discovery can mean the world. That’s why Birthright AFRICA, a nonprofit organization based in New York City, offers free trips to Africa for youth and young adults of African descent looking to explore their cultural roots. The organization also funds local and national exploration in cities like New York City and Washington, where scholars live and are a bus ride away from gaining an understanding of their history and contributions in the US before visiting the continent. “National Black History Month often focuses on the past, but this is about creating an infrastructure so that we can help people transform their futures,” Birthright AFRICA co-founder Diallo Shabazz told CNN.”This isn’t about validating black identity. It’s about providing an opportunity for people to explore their ancestry. “

An education you can’t find at school

One of Birthright AFRICA’s most important goals is giving young scholars the knowledge that the American school system often fails to provide.Those who go on the trip visit cultural sites, museums, universities, and organizations managed and led by people of African descent to learn about the “historic and present-day resilience and brilliance of their heritage often lacking in our school curriculums,” according to Birthright AFRICA co-founder and CEO Walla Elsheikh.While it’s been more than a half a century since the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education ruling found that “separate but equal” has no place in US public schools, true racial equality in our education system has yet to exist.

Scholars on a Birthright AFRICA trip to Ghana in 2017.

Scholars on a Birthright AFRICA trip to Ghana in 2017.Schools with more black students are less likely to provide counselors, offer advanced classes, and hire teachers with proper licenses. Consequently, black students are more likely to be absent from school and get suspended. Although black students in colleges have more access (and freedom) to choose their own courses, when it comes to study abroad programs, the lack of diversity and equal opportunities continues.”Only 6% of study abroad students are black or of African descent. And only 2% of US managers, leaders, and entrepreneurs are of African descent,” Elsheikh said.”To address this gap in diversity and talent, Birthright AFRICA is creating the next generation of global leaders and entrepreneurs that are proud of their African heritage, confident in their innovative aspirations and connected to the African continent.”

“My life will never be the same”

While tourists visiting Africa are more likely to remember the food or safaris, those who have taken the birthright trip have something else to cherish.For Shaina Louis, a 23-year-old Haitian student born and raised in New York, her birthright trip to Ghana in 2018 as a student at the City University of New York gave her one thing she’d never expected to find: closure. “Prior to Birthright Africa, I had a lot of pent up resentment and antagonism due to a history that I felt my people had no say in. For those of us in the diaspora, our history, according to the textbooks, starts with slavery. I was doubtful and kind of cynical about what the future held not only for me as an individual, but also for black people as a whole,” Louis told CNN.After years of wondering where she fit in in a world where her ancestors were “stifled” and doubting the connection between Africa and those whose were forced to leave, Louis finally got the answers to all of her unspoken questions.”We may not speak the same language, but the foods we eat, the way we carry ourselves, the way we relate to one another, and our deeply ingrained spirituality reflect a bond that is still there,” she said. “There is a sense of inner peace and ease I now have, that wasn’t there before. I can move forward with my life, with intention behind everything I do.”

Scholars dancing with a professor from the University of Ghana's Performing Arts School in Accra, Ghana in 2018.

Scholars dancing with a professor from the University of Ghana’s Performing Arts School in Accra, Ghana in 2018.Kareem Williams, a 26-year-old scholar who went to Ghana on his birthright trip in 2019 as a participant of community-based GrowHouse NYC, said he felt extremely disconnected from his Jamaican roots while growing up in New York. What surprised Williams the most, he said, was the kindness he received from people in the country. Unlike the “feeling of separation” he’s experienced in the US, for once, he felt like he belonged. “Before I had even touched down in Ghana, the energy I felt as I got closer to Africa, I felt a rush, a vibration, and it was so strong,” Williams said. “It felt like something was pulling me towards the country. It felt surreal.”Visiting Ghana, he said, made him feel that he had a place where he didn’t have to “constantly face resistance,” an environment — and a system — that would help him thrive instead of hold him back.”It has to do with the American system. There’s so much prejudice and micro aggressions that I didn’t feel in Ghana. I felt so connected to my ancestors for the first time. When I came back to the US, I realized how much it changed me. Like my life will never be the same.”Now, Williams says he plans to someday return to Africa in hopes of getting into a position where he can become a global leader with the ability to influence reform, economic decisions, and infrastructure to collaboratively strengthen African businesses and communities.

What it takes to take a birthright trip to Africa

To take a birthright trip to Africa, you have to be a US citizen and between 13 to 30 years old.You also have to be of African descent; this includes African American, Afro-Caribbean, Afro-Europeans, Afro-Asian and Afro-Latinx, according to Elsheikh.”We consider all black people of African descent,” Elsheikh said. “Our target groups are those who have been negatively impacted by the traumatizing enslavement and colonization of black people.”Birthright AFRICA collaborates with high school, college, or community-based organization who are then considered “partners.” These educational partners select the participants and the country they will visit as part of the Birthright AFRICA program.Anyone who isn’t already a part of one of these education partners can register through the Birthright AFRICA website which will then redirect them to a partner in their area with available spaces where they can apply. Those who take the trip to Africa get to go for free — flights, hotels, food, and costs of museums are covered by Birthright AFRICA and the educational partners.For those who aren’t interested in a trip but would like to help fund them, Birthright AFRICA heavily relies on donations to make these life-changing trips possible.

CNN’s Saeed Ahmed contributed to this report.

READ MORE AT: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/03/us/africa-birthright-program-national-black-history-month-trnd/index.html

AND https://birthrightafrica.org/

The political resilience of the Black-owned bookstore




By Char Adams Feb 6, 2020

When he wasn’t helping some 600 slaves escape through the Underground Railroad, David Ruggles was running a bookstore. In 1828, Ruggles opened a grocery store in New York City and later, as he became involved in the burgeoning abolitionist movement, opened a reading room and a bookstore for Black Americans. It was the nation’s first Black-owned bookstore.

In a building in what is now known as the Tribeca neighborhood of Manhattan, Ruggles sold anti-slavery works and later published the Mirror of Liberty, known as the nation’s earliest Black magazine. This made him especially concerning to slavecatchers and anti-abolitionists, because not only was Ruggles facilitating escapes via the Underground Railroad, but he was also disseminating politically problematic works. Still, he ran a boarding house, reading room, and the bookstore through riots and attacks before leaving New York in 1839. He was repeatedly beaten and jailed for his efforts.

Born a free man, Ruggles was an ardent advocate for abolition. He even helped free Frederick Douglass from slavery by hiding Douglass in his own home. With Ruggles gone from New York, though, his store was no more. But its legacy lived on: His business was the first in a long tradition of Black-owned bookstores with ties to Black political liberation.

“Black bookstores have continuously been hubs for the community to simply be with one another.”

Before Ruggles, the community’s need for Black literature was largely met by Black bibliophiles like him who went to great lengths to collect books, periodicals, and newspapers by Black writers that focused on Black life. Their goal was to make Black literature available to the Black community in reading rooms at a time when Black people were routinely told no books by or about them existed.

Today’s brick-and-mortar Black bookstores continue the legacy of the space that Ruggles created. Black bookshops, owned and operated by Black people, cater to the community with written works by and for Black readers. Many shops also feature a variety of writings by non-Black authors. For all their transformation over the centuries, though, Black bookstores have continuously been hubs for the community to simply be with one another.

Historically, Black independent booksellers have been viewed as the keepers of Black culture. And just as Ruggles’s store allowed him to purvey abolitionist works, many Black bookshops have been closely tied to political movements of their day. Because of this, the stores have long been sites of liberation — and government interest.

“They felt he was running some type of movement here because he was promoting Black culture.”

Some of the earliest business owners to follow Ruggles’s example were Lewis Michaux, an outspoken activist who owned the famous National Memorial African Bookstore, a Harlem landmark that opened in the 1930s, and Alfred and Bernice Ligon of the Aquarian Book Shop in Los Angeles, which operated as early as the 1940s and was a stopping place for writers like Maya Angelou and Alex Haley. In the 1960s, more than a century after Ruggles ran his store, the daughter of Dawud Hakim, the owner of Hakim’s Bookstore in Philadelphia, heard her father talk about the FBI agents perched outside his shop.

“People used to stand across the street from the store and take pictures,” Yvonne Blake tells Mic about her father’s store. “They felt he was running some type of movement here because he was promoting Black culture.”

The exterior of Hakim’s Bookstore in the 1960s. [Courtesy Yvonne Blake]

In 1968, then-FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover ordered FBI outposts across the country to investigate Black bookstores and their owners as part of COINTELPRO, the infamous counterintelligence program that worked to combat the Black Power movement. Each office was ordered to spy on “Black extremist and/or African-type bookstores” to determine whether they served as secret meeting places or hubs for Black extremists.

Some 140 miles away from Hakim’s Bookstore, veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a major direct-action civil rights organization formed in the early 1960s, were having their own run-ins with federal law enforcement at the Drum and Spear Bookstore in Washington, D.C. The store quickly became a target for federal law enforcement because of its links to prominent Black activists like Stokely Carmichael. Judy Richardson, an early member of SNCC who worked in the bookstore, recalls a pair of FBI agents visiting the shop.

The Drum and Spear storefront

“It was so obvious who they were,” Richardson tells Mic. “These two white guys, they always looked the same. Very buttoned up, standard-issue shoes. They were buying up Mao’s ‘[Little] Red Book’ and all of the revolutionary literature … to ‘prove’ the case that we were left-wing and to minimize any support we might have in the public sphere. It was an attempt to smear us.”

“They were tracking us,” she continues. “We all had [FBI] files.” The FBI’s monitoring of the group is well-documented, with several files made public by the FBI.

In 1971, Hakim was quoted calling the operation “a waste of taxpayers’ money,” per The Atlantic. “We are trying to educate our people about their history and culture,” he lamented, adding that the FBI should have been pursuing other priorities like “organized crime and dope peddlers.”

“Black bookstores are political spaces. That connection to politics was absolutely essential.”

The feds’ interest in Black booksellers spanned the country. In New York City, booksellers like Michaux and Una Mulzac of Liberation Bookstore were monitored. Edward Vaughn of Vaughn’s Bookstore in Detroit was singled out too, along with the owners of Denver’s Sundiata bookstore. Even Martin Sostre, whose Afro Asian Book Shop was located in relatively lesser-known Buffalo, New York, was under investigation for simply selling Black literature, as University of Baltimore history professor Joshua Clark Davis notes in his book From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs.

“Black bookstores are political spaces,” Davis tells Mic. “That connection to politics was absolutely essential to these bookstores. So many Black activists, so many Black people who started bookstores in the ‘60s and ‘70s, the vast majority of them came out of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements. You have folks who come out of movements and start bookstores. That’s a pattern that repeats itself.”

Yvonne Blake in present-day Hakim’s Bookstore. [Courtesy Yvonne Blake]

The late ‘60s marked a sharp increase in Black independent bookstores, and the timing of the surge — during the height of the Black Power Movement — was no coincidence. Hoover was right about one thing: Black bookstores were gathering places rooted in activism. But they went far beyond politics, too. These shops catered to the community and provided a space for Black people to come and not only read, but also talk about what they read. Chester and Lillie Owens and James and Dorothy McField, two Black couples, understood this full-well when they opened The Hub in 1965 in Kansas City, Kansas. They served tea and gourmet foods to those who came to the bookstore to simply hang out, and sold African clothing and jewelry, according to Kansas City-based NPR affiliate KCUR.

“[It was about] the young people who would sit down on the floor of The Hub and read the books,” Chester Owens told KCUR in October. “[Profit] had nothing to do with it.”

The number of Black bookstores dwindled along with the Black Power Movement in the mid- to late-’70s. And the dismal economy of the decade only led to more closures. However, in the ‘90s, major Black cultural and political moments — like the Los Angeles Riots, the Million Man March, and hip-hop’s golden age — led to a sharp increase in such stores.There was a renewed interest in Black history, especially after New York’s Howard Beach killing in the late ‘80s and a series of fire-bombings at southern Black churches in the ‘90s, according to the Los Angeles Times. Major bookstore chains took notice and ramped up their African-American book offerings, the Times reported then. But the variety and culturally specific titles that the major retailers lacked, Black independent bookstores offered to literature-thirsty Black communities.

“It was a vehicle for people looking for new ideas and thoughts from a Black or African-centered perspective.”

Akbar Watson, director of the Boynton Beach, Florida-based Pyramid Books, launched his shop in 1993 after he and his friends grew tired of having little access to books by Black writers and about Black life, academia, and culture.At the time, he says, “reading was hot.”

“It became political,” Watson tells Mic of his store. “I didn’t start [the store] to become political, but I was housing [books] with universal issues that catered toward Black people. It was a vehicle for people looking for new ideas and thoughts from a Black or African-centered perspective. The customers demanded that. It quickly became political because it was part of the business. It’s what people wanted.”

The number of Black bookstores peaked with at least 200 in the mid-‘90s, Davis says, before plummeting over the years to just 54 in 2014, according to the African American Literature Book Club. The number slightly recovered to reach 70 in 2016, per the database. When you put those numbers in context, you realize how precarious the situation was for Black bookstores: The Open Education Database notes that independent bookstores overall endured a precipitous drop too, thanks to the rise of Amazon and major chains — from more than 4,000 independent stores in the early ‘90s to just 1,900 by 2011.

But now, yet another revolutionary political climate has resulted in a new wave of Black-owned bookstores, even as brick-and-mortar bookstores struggle in the shadow of online titans like Amazon. Today, the African American Literature Book Club estimates that about 120 Black-owned bookstores are operating in the U.S.

“People are realizing bookstores offer something special,” Davis says, crediting “everything from Obama’s second term and Trayvon Martin to Black Lives Matter and Black Twitter” for drawing increased attention to racism and injustice and fueling an uptick in interest in Black life.“Black bookstores are uniquely positioned to serve citizens who want to learn more about Black history and culture or learn about racism,” Davis says.

Of course, the books are part of the appeal, too. The latest increase in Black bookstores may also be due in part to the “huge number of excellent new Black authors,” Davis says. Writers like Tressie McMillan Cottom, Brittney Cooper, Roxane Gay, and Kiese Laymon have produced works that fly from the shelves and spark meaningful conversations, Davis says, and Black bookstores have long been a stopping place for Black writers promoting their work.

“Whatever the country is going through, the Black community is feeling it 17 times harder.”

Still, bookstore ownership is known as one of the most challenging plights in retail. Many of the stores still in existence have relied on monetary help from their communities. Blake, who still runs her father’s store in Philadelphia, has turned to crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe to keep the doors open. Other shops, like Seattle’s Life Enrichment Bookstore, have done the same.

This was also the case for Noëlle Santos, the owner of The Lit. Bar in the Bronx, New York. Despite having no bookselling (or retail) experience, she stepped in to fill a void after the neighborhood’s only bookstore — a Barnes & Noble — closed. She used her social media prowess and several pop-up shops to establish the Lit. Bar name before opening the store in 2019.

“Whatever the country is going through, the Black community is feeling it 17 times harder,” Santos tells Mic. “It’s not that we lack the talent — we lack the investments. We have to go out and get it.”

The Lit. Bar. [Courtesy Noëlle Santos/The Lit. Bar]

Santos’s shop includes a wine bar, and she additionally holds offsite events and even provides textbooks for nearby schools. Her model is similar to the one that held up Black bookshops in decades past. Just as Lit. Bar provides a space for the community to gather, so does Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in Philadelphia (owned by Marc Lamont Hill), WORD in Brooklyn, and many more.

While we enjoy this most recent wave of Black bookstores, it’s hard not to wonder whether some new pressure — political, social, or economic — will once again diminish their number. But if history has taught us anything, it’s that these shops are as resilient as the people who occupy them. Santos, for example, sees her business not as an entry in history but as an investment in what’s to come.

“I never thought about making my mark on history. That never registered,” she says. “I’m thinking about the future and how much impact I can make.”

READ MORE AT: https://www.mic.com/p/the-political-resilience-of-the-black-owned-bookstore-21738486

Wilmington’s Lie and Loss Of Black Representatives

For the next 28 years after George H. White left office in 1901, there would not be another African-American in Congress.

On Nov. 11, 1898, armed white militiamen escort several prominent black men to Wilmington’s train station for permanent banishment.

In addition to the deaths and destruction of Wilmington’s African-American community, there was another equally important consequence of those riots. George H. White had already been elected to a second congressional term by the time the riots began. For the next 28 years after he left office in 1901, there would not be another African-American in Congress to represent their interests.

A politically motivated attack by whites against the city’s leading African American citizens, the Wilmington Race Riot of 1898 documents the lengths to which Southern White Democrats went to regain political domination of the South after Reconstruction.  The violence began on Thursday, November 10th in the predominantly African American city of Wilmington, North Carolina, at that time the state’s largest metropolis.  Statewide election returns had recently signaled a shift in power with Democrats taking over the North Carolina State Legislature.  The city of Wilmington, however, remained in Republican hands primarily because of its solid base of African American voters.  On November 10th, Alfred Moore Waddell, a former Confederate officer and a white supremacist, led a group of townsmen to force the ouster of Wilmington’s city officials.

Waddell relied on an editorial printed in the African American-owned Wilmington Daily Record as the catalyst for the riot.  Alex Manly, the editor of the Daily Record, had published an editorial in early November arguing that “poor white men are careless in the matter of protecting their women.”  Paraphrasing articles by Ida B. Wells on the subject of lynching, Manly opined that “our experiences among poor white people in the country teaches us that women of that race are not any more particular in the matter of clandestine meetings with colored men than the white men with the colored women.”  Manly’s public discussion of the taboo subject of interracial sex exposed the reality of sexual exploitation of black women by white men and challenged the myth of pure-white womanhood.

Forty-eight hours after Manly’s editorial ran Waddell led 500 white men to the headquarters of the Daily Record on 7th Street.  The mob broke out windows and set the building on fire.  Manly and other high profile African Americans fled the city; however, at least 14 African Americans were slain that day.  An eyewitness later wrote that African Americans fled to the swamps, or hid in the African American cemetery at the edge of town.  When their criminal behavior resulted in neither Federal sanctions nor condemnation from the state, Waddell and his men formalized their control of Wilmington.  The posse forced the Republican members of the city council and the mayor to resign and Waddell assumed the mayoral seat.  Over the next two years North Carolina passed the “grandfather clause,” as one in a series of laws designed to limit the voting rights of African Americans.

Meet Our Ancestor, A Great Black Electrical Engineer Who Owned More Than 60 Patents

Meet the First Black Electrical Engineer Who Owned More Than 60 Patents

Granville Tailer Woods, first Black Electrical Engineer

Granville Tailer Woods was the first African-American to become a mechanical and electrical engineer. He was also an inventor who held more than 60 patents.

Born on April 23, 1856 in Columbus, Ohio to poor parents, his family could not initially afford to send him to college. But he still was able to the needed skills to become a machinist and blacksmith when he worked as an apprentice in a local machine shop.

Later, he was able to attend college and studied mechanical and electrical engineering there. Upon graduation, he became an entrepreneur and worked as an electrical engineer and inventor. He started out working in Ohio, but in 1892 he moved his facilities to New York City.

His work is credited for making publication transporation systems throughout the United States safer and better. For example, he invented and patented tunnel construction for the electric railroad system. Another one of his notable inventions was an improved telephone transmitter that combined the telephone and telegraph. He later sold the patents and rights to this device to the American Bell Telephone Company, which was later acquired by AT&T.

He also invented the multiplex telegraph. Thomas Edison, had been working on a similar invention and once tried to claim that he was the original creator of it. But when Edison took Woods to court over the matter, he was defeated and Woods was awarded the patent.

Edison was not the only one who tried to claim Woods’ inventions as his own, so he often had difficulties in enjoying his success.

Sadly, he died on January 30, 1910 in New York City. Today, few people talk about his contributions, and his legacy is hardly even mentioned in public school text books.

READ MORE AT:https://www.blackhistory.com/2019/12/granville-tailer-woods-first-black-electrical-engineer.html

Meet the Former Enslaved Ancestor Turned Real Estate Investor And Business Owner

Clara Brown

Clara Brown was a pioneer, a community leader, a philanthropist, and the first African American woman to live in Denver, Colorado. At the age of 56-years old, she became a real estate investor who established a successful laundromat chain during the Colorado Gold Rush in the 1800s.

he was born as a slave in Virginia in 1800, but in 1856 she obtained her freedom because her master died and his will stipulated her freedom. Her family had been split up and sold off one by one to different owners, so Clara decided to search for them – especially her 4 children. She headed west, moving from state to state while working as a cook and laundress.

After not being able to successfully find her family, Clara decided to settle in Colorado in a town outside of Denver called Central City. There, she opened a laundry business for gold miners. In addition, she collected whatever gold dust came out of the miners’ pockets and made extra money by cooking and cleaning for them as well.

Clara was known for her generosity in the community; She denied herself any luxuries, and chose instead to help fund non-profit causes such as the construction of a local church.

Over time, Clara expanded her laundry business to several locations, and invested her earnings into real estate and mines. When she died, she owned quite a bit throughout the state of Colorado – building lots in Denver, houses in Central City, and mines in Boulder, Georgetown and Idaho Springs.

READ MORE AT:https://www.blackhistory.com/2019/12/clara-brown-former-slave-real-estate-investor-owner-laundromats.html

This Little Known Fact About Black Giving Might Be Surprising

Maryann Reid

Tracey Webb
Black Benefactors Giving Circle w/Tracey Webb (bottom right)William Perrigen

Blacks give 25% more of their income annually than white households, according to a report by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. 

Though research is limited in this area, it also states “nearly two-thirds of African-American households donated to organizations and causes, totaling $11 billion each year”. In other words, blacks are one the largest group of givers in the country. Financial contributions from the black community have been well-noted and consistent for generations, with “tithing” being an intricate part of black giving and the values of community and mutuality embedded in African traditional values carried over by slaves.  

After losing her job, Tracey Webb, founder of Black Benefactors, based in Washington D.C., started the giving circle organization in 2007 to create a collective “black giving” experience. Webb shares how black philanthropists can have influence on the causes they care about and how to do it.

Maryann Reid: What is a giving circle and is it different from being a philanthropist?

Tracey Webb: A giving circle is a group of individuals that pool their monies for charitable causes and decide together where to give it away. Studies have shown that giving circle members are more likely to volunteer, give more, and give more strategically. The root meaning of the word philanthropy literally means, love of mankind. It doesn’t mean wealth or a large donation. Giving circle members are philanthropists

Reid: What from your personal experience made you start Black Benefactors? 

Webb: My journey began when I lost my job as a nonprofit director. I couldn’t raise the funding needed to keep the organization open. I made a vow to myself that I would help other black nonprofit founders and leaders, but at the time, I didn’t know how. The concept of giving circles was introduced to me a few years earlier, so I began to research them in my spare time. Upon learning, more about how they worked, I realized it would be the perfect way to accomplish my goal of funding black led nonprofits. I came up with the name Black Benefactors to clearly show who the funding is for, and who makes the funding possible. Our giving circle members are the benefactors, which is a person who gives money to a cause. I’ve had members tell me that they didn’t see themselves as benefactors or philanthropists before, but now they do. 

Reid: What’s the first step someone should take if they want to become a philanthropist?

Webb: Since 2014, BB has hosted dinner series events featuring black philanthropists who share their giving story. A common theme among all speakers on their approach to philanthropy can be used as a first step–they identified a focus area for their giving. Usually it was influenced by their interests, or a cause they were personally affected by. One of our past speakers, Reggie Van Lee, is an art collector who established a scholarship for performing arts students at Howard University. He combined his love for the arts and philanthropy. 

Reid: What is a project that your giving circle participated in and that you’re excited about?

Webb: We launched a capacity building project this year to help strengthen black led nonprofits in the D.C. area. Through partnerships with local funders and a consulting firm, our grantee partners and grant applicants can receive in-kind support to strengthen their infrastructure. Our first workshop was held in partnership with the D.C. office of “Blacks at Bain” of Bain & Company, a global consultancy firm, on board development, and a second workshop was held with the Beckner Advancement Fund, a social justice funder based in D.C. 

Reid: Tell me about the very first grant you awarded. What was that like?

Webb: Our first grants totaling $9,000 were awarded in 2009. It was very moving for me because behind that first grant was years of planning, research, recruiting, meetings and fundraising. To be able to award a grant that was from us, for us was the best feeling in the world. I continue to experience that feeling with each grant cycle. Our grantees have shared with us that receiving a grant from black donors is impactful and for some, the first time. I’m proud to say that with each grant cycle, we’ve increased our total grant awards.  

Reid: Why is now an important time for blacks to give?

Webb: Now is an important time to support a giving circle like ours because there are initiatives to increase funding and resources to black led businesses, but what about black-led nonprofits? Only 3% of national foundation funding is allocated to these organizations, which are often underfunded, if funded at all, and under-resourced. Because of this reason, we aim to fill this critical gap in resources by funding black-led nonprofits at the highest level possible each grant cycle instead of awarding several small grants. 

Reid: How can someone start giving if they only have $500? Is that enough?

Webb: Absolutely. In fact, two of our past grants were in the amount of $500 for the purchase of wish list items. To get started, if there’s a giving circle in your community, consider donating to one or more of their grantees. Giving circles are more likely to support small organizations and $500 can go a long way. Or, leverage your $500 with others by joining or donating to a giving circle for a larger gift. I’d also like to add that you can start giving at any amount. 

Reid: What is in the future for Black Benefactors?

Webb: We are undergoing a restructuring process to better serve our members, grantee partners and the community. During this time, we’re accepting donations to support our grant making. Looking into my Black Benefactors crystal ball, I see new members, larger grant awards and a youth component in our future. 

Reid: How can someone support black philanthropy now?

Webb: Learn more about the history and impact of black giving circles by reading “The Sweetness of Circles” here, an op-ed that I co-authored with Akira Barclay and Valaida Fullwood, and start planning now to celebrate Black Philanthropy Month in August 2020 by visiting www.blackphilanthropymonth.com.  Most importantly, share how you give black year-round with #BPM365

The Great Land Robbery: The shameful story of how 1 million black families have been ripped from their farms

Vann R. Newkirk III September 2019

I. Wiped Out

“You ever chop before?” Willena Scott-White was testing me. I sat with her in the cab of a Chevy Silverado pickup truck, swatting at the squadrons of giant, fluttering mosquitoes that had invaded the interior the last time she opened a window. I was spending the day with her family as they worked their fields just outside Ruleville, in Mississippi’s Leflore County. With her weathered brown hands, Scott-White gave me a pork sandwich wrapped in a grease-stained paper towel. I slapped my leg. Mosquitoes can bite through denim, it turns out.

Cotton sowed with planters must be chopped—thinned and weeded manually with hoes—to produce orderly rows of fluffy bolls. The work is backbreaking, and the people who do it maintain that no other job on Earth is quite as demanding. I had labored long hours over other crops, but had to admit to Scott-White, a 60-something grandmother who’d grown up chopping, that I’d never done it.

“Then you ain’t never worked,” she replied.

The fields alongside us as we drove were monotonous. With row crops, monotony is good. But as we toured 1,000 acres of land in Leflore and Bolivar Counties, straddling Route 61, Scott-White pointed out the demarcations between plots. A trio of steel silos here. A post there. A patch of scruffy wilderness in the distance. Each landmark was a reminder of the Scott legacy that she had fought to keep—or to regain—and she noted this with pride. Each one was also a reminder of an inheritance that had once been stolen.

Drive Route 61 through the Mississippi Delta and you’ll find much of the scenery exactly as it was 50 or 75 years ago. Imposing plantations and ramshackle shotgun houses still populate the countryside from Memphis to Vicksburg. Fields stretch to the horizon. The hands that dig into black Delta dirt belong to people like Willena Scott-White, African Americans who bear faces and names passed down from men and women who were owned here, who were kept here, and who chose to stay here, tending the same fields their forebears tended.

But some things have changed. Back in the day, snow-white bolls of King Cotton reigned. Now much of the land is green with soybeans. The farms and plantations are much larger—industrial operations with bioengineered plants, laser-guided tractors, and crop-dusting drones. Fewer and fewer farms are still owned by actual farmers. Investors in boardrooms throughout the country have bought hundreds of thousands of acres of premium Delta land. If you’re one of the millions of people who have a retirement account with the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association, for instance, you might even own a little bit yourself.

A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America.

TIAA is one of the largest pension firms in the United States. Together with its subsidiaries and associated funds, it has a portfolio of more than 80,000 acres in Mississippi alone, most of them in the Delta. 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. (AgriVest did not respond to a request for more recent information.)

Unlike their counterparts even two or three generations ago, black people living and working in the Delta today have been almost completely uprooted from the soil—as property owners, if not as laborers. In Washington County, Mississippi, where last February TIAA reportedly bought 50,000 acres for more than $200 million, black people make up 72 percent of the population but own only 11 percent of the farmland, in part or in full. In Tunica County, where TIAA has acquired plantations from some of the oldest farm-owning white families in the state, black people make up 77 percent of the population but own only 6 percent of the farmland. In Holmes County, the third-blackest county in the nation, black people make up about 80 percent of the population but own only 19 percent of the farmland. TIAA owns plantations there, too. In just a few years, a single company has accumulated a portfolio in the Delta almost equal to the remaining holdings of the African Americans who have lived on and shaped this land for centuries.

This is not a story about TIAA—at least not primarily. The company’s newfound dominance in the region is merely the topsoil covering a history of loss and legally sanctioned theft in which TIAA played no part. But TIAA’s position is instrumental in understanding both how the crimes of Jim Crow have been laundered by time and how the legacy of ill-gotten gains has become a structural part of American life. The land was wrested first from Native Americans, by force. It was then cleared, watered, and made productive for intensive agriculture by the labor of enslaved Africans, who after Emancipation would come to own a portion of it. Later, through a variety of means—sometimes legal, often coercive, in many cases legal and coercive, occasionally violent—farmland owned by black people came into the hands of white people. It was aggregated into larger holdings, then aggregated again, eventually attracting the interest of Wall Street.

Owners of small farms everywhere, black and white alike, have long been buffeted by larger economic forces. But what happened to black landowners in the South, and particularly in the Delta, is distinct, and was propelled not only by economic change but also by white racism and local white power. A war waged by deed of title has dispossessed 98 percent of black agricultural landowners in America. They have lost 12 million acres over the past century. But even that statement falsely consigns the losses to long-ago history. In fact, the losses mostly occurred within living memory, from the 1950s onward. Today, except for a handful of farmers like the Scotts who have been able to keep or get back some land, black people in this most productive corner of the Deep South own almost nothing of the bounty under their feet.

II. “Land Hunger”

Land has always been the main battleground of racial conflict in Mississippi. During Reconstruction, fierce resistance from the planters who had dominated antebellum society effectively killed any promise of land or protection from the Freedmen’s Bureau, forcing masses of black laborers back into de facto bondage. But the sheer size of the black population—black people were a majority in Mississippi until the 1930s—meant that thousands were able to secure tenuous footholds as landowners between Emancipation and the Great Depression.

Driven by what W. E. B. Du Bois called “land hunger” among freedmen during Reconstruction, two generations of black workers squirreled away money and went after every available and affordable plot they could, no matter how marginal or hopeless. Some found sympathetic white landowners who would sell to them. Some squatted on unused land or acquired the few homesteads available to black people. Some followed visionary leaders to all-black utopian agrarian experiments, such as Mound Bayou, in Bolivar County.

From March 1901: W. E. B. Du Bois’s ‘The Freedmen’s Bureau’

It was never much, and it was never close to just, but by the early 20th century, black people had something to hold on to. In 1900, according to the historian James C. Cobb, black landowners in Tunica County outnumbered white ones three to one. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, there were 25,000 black farm operators in 1910, an increase of almost 20 percent from 1900. Black farmland in Mississippi totaled 2.2 million acres in 1910—some 14 percent of all black-owned agricultural land in the country, and the most of any state.

The foothold was never secure. From the beginning, even the most enterprising black landowners found themselves fighting a war of attrition, often fraught with legal obstacles that made passing title to future generations difficult. Bohlen Lucas, one of the few black Democratic politicians in the Delta during Reconstruction (most black politicians at the time were Republicans), was born enslaved and managed to buy a 200-acre farm from his former overseer. But, like many farmers, who often have to borrow against expected harvests to pay for equipment, supplies, and the rent or mortgage on their land, Lucas depended on credit extended by powerful lenders. In his case, credit depended specifically on white patronage, given in exchange for his help voting out the Reconstruction government—after which his patrons abandoned him. He was left with 20 acres.

In Humphreys County, Lewis Spearman avoided the pitfalls of white patronage by buying less valuable wooded tracts and grazing cattle there as he moved into cotton. But when cotton crashed in the 1880s, Spearman, over his head in debt, crashed with it.

Around the turn of the century, in Leflore County, a black farm organizer and proponent of self-sufficiency—referred to as a “notoriously bad Negro” in the local newspapers—led a black populist awakening, marching defiantly and by some accounts bringing boycotts against white merchants. White farmers responded with a posse that may have killed as many as 100 black farmers and sharecroppers along with women and children. The fate of the “bad Negro” in question, named Oliver Cromwell, is uncertain. Some sources say he escaped to Jackson, and into anonymity.

Like so many of his forebears, Ed Scott Sr., Willena Scott-White’s grandfather, acquired his land through not much more than force of will. As recorded in the thick binders of family history that Willena had brought along in the truck, and that we flipped through between stretches of work in the fields, his life had attained the gloss of folklore. He was born in 1886 in western Alabama, a generation removed from bondage. Spurred by that same land hunger, Scott took his young family to the Delta, seeking opportunities to farm his own property. He sharecropped and rented, and managed large farms for white planters, who valued his ability to run their sprawling estates. One of these men was Palmer H. Brooks, who owned a 7,000-acre plantation in Mississippi’s Leflore and Sunflower Counties. Brooks was uncommonly progressive, encouraging entrepreneurship among the black laborers on his plantation, building schools and churches for them, and providing loans. Scott was ready when Brooks decided to sell plots to black laborers, and he bought his first 100 acres.

Unlike Bohlen Lucas, Scott largely avoided politics. Unlike Lewis Spearman, he paid his debts and kept some close white allies—a necessity, since he usually rejected government assistance. And unlike Oliver Cromwell, he led his community under the rules already in place, appearing content with what he’d earned for his family in an environment of total segregation. He leveraged technical skills and a talent for management to impress sympathetic white people and disarm hostile ones. “Granddaddy always had nice vehicles,” Scott-White told me. They were a trapping of pride in a life of toil. As was true in most rural areas at the time, a new truck was not just a flashy sign of prosperity but also a sort of credit score. Wearing starched dress shirts served the same purpose, elevating Scott in certain respects—always within limits—even above some white farmers who drove into town in dirty overalls. The trucks got shinier as his holdings grew. By the time Scott died, in 1957, he had amassed more than 1,000 acres of farmland.

Scott-White guided me right up to the Quiver River, where the legend of her family began. It was a choked, green-brown gurgle of a thing, the kind of lazy waterway that one imagines to be brimming with fat, yawning catfish and snakes. “Mr. Brooks sold all of the land on the east side of this river to black folks,” Scott-White told me. She swept her arm to encompass the endless acres. “All of these were once owned by black families.”

III. The Great Dispossession

That era of black ownership, in the Delta and throughout the country, was already fading by the time Scott died. As the historian Pete Daniel recounts, half a million black-owned farms across the country failed in the 25 years after 1950. Joe Brooks, the former president of the Emergency Land Fund, a group founded in 1972 to fight the problem of dispossession, has estimated that something on the order of 6 million acres was lost by black farmers from 1950 to 1969. That’s an average of 820 acres a day—an area the size of New York’s Central Park erased with each sunset. Black-owned cotton farms in the South almost completely disappeared, diminishing from 87,000 to just over 3,000 in the 1960s alone. According to the Census of Agriculture, the racial disparity in farm acreage increased in Mississippi from 1950 to 1964, when black farmers lost almost 800,000 acres of land. An analysis for The Atlantic by a research team that included Dania Francis, at the University of Massachusetts, and Darrick Hamilton, at Ohio State, translates this land loss into a financial loss—including both property and income—of $3.7 billion to $6.6 billion in today’s dollars.

This was a silent and devastating catastrophe, one created and maintained by federal policy. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal life raft for agriculture helped start the trend in 1937 with the establishment of the Farm Security Administration, an agency within the Department of Agriculture. Although the FSA ostensibly existed to help the country’s small farmers, as happened with much of the rest of the New Deal, white administrators often ignored or targeted poor black people—denying them loans and giving sharecropping work to white people. After Roosevelt’s death, in 1945, conservatives in Congress replaced the FSA with the Farmers Home Administration, or FmHA. The FmHA quickly transformed the FSA’s programs for small farmers, establishing the sinews of the loan-and-subsidy structure that undergirds American agriculture today. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy’s administration created the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service, or ASCS, a complementary program to the FmHA that also provided loans to farmers. The ASCS was a federal effort—also within the Department of Agriculture—but, crucially, the members of committees doling out money and credit were elected locally, during a time when black people were prohibited from voting.

Through these programs, and through massive crop and surplus purchasing, the USDA became the safety net, price-setter, chief investor, and sole regulator for most of the farm economy in places like the Delta. The department could offer better loan terms to risky farmers than banks and other lenders, and mostly outcompeted private credit. In his book Dispossession, Daniel calls the setup “agrigovernment.” Land-grant universities pumped out both farm operators and the USDA agents who connected those operators to federal money. Large plantations ballooned into even larger industrial crop factories as small farms collapsed. The mega-farms held sway over agricultural policy, resulting in more money, at better interest rates, for the plantations themselves. At every level of agrigovernment, the leaders were white.

READ MORE AT: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/09/this-land-was-our-land/594742/

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