Black Farmers Have Lost $326 Billion in Land According to New Study

This is not just theoretical, but this is empirical.

During the 20th century, Black farmers in the United States lost roughly $326 billion worth of acreage according to a new study, led by Dania Francis of the University of Massachusetts Boston.

“Wealth and land is one way in this country that you’re able to grow opportunity for your family,” said Dr. Dania Francis, professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and lead author of the study published on Sunday in the American Economic Association’s Papers and Proceedings journal.

The study calculated the compounded value of declining acreage owned by African Americans between 1920 and 1997 in the 17 states where almost all Black-owned farms were documented, using data from the USDA Census of Agriculture.

“When huge groups of African Americans were denied that opportunity, it speaks to the intergenerational wealth gap that opened up in part due to this type of land loss,” Francis said in the report.

The study calculated the compounded value of declining acreage owned by African Americans between 1920 and 1997 in the 17 states where almost all Black-owned farms were documented, using data from the USDA Census of Agriculture.

Black families emerged in the early 1900s with almost 20 million acres of farmland and “the largest amount of property they would ever own within the United States,” according to the historian Manning Marable. Since then, they have lost roughly 90 percent of that acreage.

In 1910, Black farmers owned more than 16 million acres of land, according to experts. In 2017, when the most recent agricultural census was done, that figure was just 4.7 million acres, about 0.5% of all farmland as USDA agents refused loans to Black farmers, interfered in elections for county committees that distributed federal funds, restricted the crops Black farmers could grow, and sometimes participated in outright theft.

“This is not just theoretical, but this is empirical,” said Dr. Darrick Hamilton, economics professor at The New School and another of the study’s authors. “These are real losses that occurred.”

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20th century rural sociologist, Carl Frederick Kraenzel, coined the term ‘Yonland’ to describe the in-between places left indistinct and vague on a map. Yonlander is a rural publication designed for those outside the city limit sign pursuing a simple, independent lifestyle.

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