Volume 7, Number 14                                          September 11, 2004

The Farmer

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Back Migration of Blacks: Who will benefit?

by Dr. Ridgely Abdul Muímin Muhammad

According to US Census statistics from 1990 to 2000 approximately 579,000 Black people have migrated back to the South. Who is and will benefit from this great back migration of Blacks?

In 1910 Blacks had accumulated over 16 million acres of land primarily from their own hard work and sacrifice. However, by the year 2000 Blacks owned less than 3 million acres. Black farmers are a dwindling breed. Twenty-five percent (25%) are over 70 years old, while only four percent (4%) are under 35.

The KKK, Jim Crow, lynching and other terrorist tactics were used to flush Blacks out of the country side while the NAACP was luring them to come North. The USDA assisted white farmers to buy the land being left behind with tax payer money and helped cheat Black farmers out of their land who were not willing to sell.

Black farmers went to court in 1999 to stop the USDA from foreclosing on another 3,000 farmers. However, the farmers were tricked into signing a consent decree which gave $50,000 to over 13,000 people, most of whom were not farming. The system denied over 8,000 people who applied to be plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Within this 8,000 were the same 3,000 that the USDA was targeting for foreclosure. April of 2004 saw the end of the consent decree, so now the USDA is coming after that land without media coverage or public outcry.

Earlier in the 20th century Blacks left their land behind to be farmed and later developed by white people. Now as they migrate back to the South, they will probably wind up buying back some of that same land. However, instead of the few dollars per acre that their forefathers got for this land, they will be paying thousands of dollars for the land and much more for the houses built on that land. Probably they will make this purchase by putting some money down and going further in debt. They will probably agree to pay interest compounded on interest to the owners directly or indirectly through the banks that these wealthy farmers own in the rural communities.

The white farmers used government subsidies to get filthy rich. Now as they move into retirement they can use their equity to start development projects on that land and sell it to the new comers to establish a fat nest egg for their retirement or capital boost for their children and grandchildren.

To make things worse these poor Northerners will probably depend on a white real estate agent to find that "dream home". Just around the corner from our farm in Georgia are a number of developments that have sprung up in the last 5 years on what used to be farm land. The homes look beautiful. However, we saw these houses hastily put up with materials of questionable quality. We know that some of these houses are built in what once were very swampy areas that revert back to that condition after a hard rain. Many of these fancy homes were lived in less than a year before for sale signs began to spring up.

What buyers may not know is that developers go to great pains to put the best materials and workmanship in those first model homes in a development. As the development grows the houses are built faster and corners are cut on materials and workmanship.

There are other tricks that perspective buyers should be aware of. We know of at least two houses that were damaged by the 1998 floods in Lee County. They moved these houses out of the flood plain and set them up in one of these new fancy communities. The houses look fine, but the locals know the deal. They have set there for over 4 years waiting on that unsuspecting Northerner to come back South.

One of the most comical incidences of home buyers being taken can be seen along Hwy 32 traveling between Dawson and Leesburg, Ga. In front of one of these newly built mansions is a pit sitting next to the road which was supposed to be a pond. They dug this thing out, but it just will not fill with water. They even put plastic in the bottom of this dry pond hoping to stop the water from seeping out as they refilled it with well water. That didnít work. Just recently, hurricane Frances came directly over us and that pond dropping at least 6 inches of torrential rain. That pond is still dry and ugly while their neighborís yard right across the road is under water (smile). I guess that this property will be up for sale soon.

On Saturday, September 18, 2004 in the city of Atlanta, Ga the Black Family Land Trust (BFLT) is introducing itself to the wider community. It is holding a conference entitled "A landed people is a powerful people." The mission of the BFLT is to stop the loss of Black owned land and provide opportunities for economic development to ensure the viability of both farmers and rural communities. "If you are going to come home, at least get the lay of the land."

For information on the BFLT conference go to www.MuhammadFarms.com and hit "Black Family Land Trust (BFLT) Conference".

Peace, Doc