‘Just About All of Our Land’: Report Shows Black Farmers Lost $326B Worth of Land from Dispossession and Discriminatory Policies

professional headshot of Dr. William Darity

By Nyamekye Daniel May 18, 2022

Black people had the largest amount of farmland they would ever own in the U.S. after the Civil War, but decade after decade, that land has been stripped through discrimination policies and theft, leading to hundreds of billions of dollars in economic loss in the 20th century, a new report shows. According to the report published on May 5, after slavery, 425,000 Black families had nearly 20 million acres of farmland in the South by 1910. They have since lost 14 million acres, often at the hands of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The land lost and the possible income the land could have produced for Black farmers between 1920 and 1997 total $326 billion, economists estimate. … The authors of the report, titled “How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland,” hope it would be a start to the federal government making Black farmers whole. Duke economist William Darity Jr. said the estimate should be included in a broader national reparations program for Black Americans. According to Darity, the federal government owes descendants of enslaved African- Americans $14 trillion. “What has happened to the Black farmers is part of the fabric of a host of atrocities that have been inflicted on Black Americans frequently involving the dispossession of land,” Darity said. “So, the answer is not to attempt to address this on a piece-by-piece basis or atrocity by atrocity, but actually for all the communities of Black people that have been harmed by America’s history of racism to come together to insist upon a national program of reparations.”