The Black Family Land Trust 

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This Spring, the Black Family Land Trust became the 23rd member of the NC Land Trust Council. The BFLT was unanimously voted into the LTC at the Spring meeting in Montreat, NC. Membership in the Council means the organization will receive very important technical support and assistance from the Council, and will have an opportunity to serve the Council and provide leadership in North Carolina's conservation movement.

Also this Spring, the BFLT began providing Stewardship of its easement with the Town of Sandyfield, NC. This easement protects more than 33 acres of beautiful natural land in Southeastern North Carolina. The BFLT is grateful and eager to continue working with the town to preserve the natural assets of the land, while supporting their efforts to provide sustainable, land-based economic development opportunities to their community.

In other news, the Conservation-Based Affordable Housing campaign of the Diversity project is fully underway. In partnership with the North Carolina Community Development Initiative, the Conservation Trust For North Carolina, and the Conservation Funds Resourceful Communities Program, the BFLT looks to establish some of the first green, affordable, development of this kind in North Carolina and the country. The Diversity Partnership seeks to blend the knowledge, tools, and values of Conservation and Community Economic Development to make progressive, positive, change in diverse communities throughout the state. The BFLT is specifically working closely with Gateway CDC to protect a 1.5 acre wetland, while the CDC (community development corporation) develops affordable, sustainable homes and communities for Henderson, NC.

Black land loss has reached the crisis stage. While African-Americans amassed 15 million acres of land in the South between 1865 and 1919, by 1999 African-Americans owned a total of 7.7 million acres and only 2.5 million of those acres were farmland. In 1920, Black farmers numbered 925,708 (when 1 of 4 owned their own land) and controlled approximately 14 percent of the nation's farmland. Today, Black farmers have declined in number to approximately 18,000 and they control less than 1 percent of the nation's farmland.

The decline in Black-owned land can, in part, be attributed to the Great Depression and the migration North of thousands of African-Americans throughout the South, in addition to the general decline of small farms in the agricultural industry.

Other major contributing factors, however, are the historical racial discrimination in farm loan practices on the part of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) which continues today, and the fragmented nature of Black landownership, caused by what is called Heir Property. One researcher estimates that nearly 83 percent of African-Americans do not possess basic wills or estate plans. Major ownership problems arise when people pass without making provisions for their land, which causes the State to make those decisions. A final, major issue today is the pressure that development and suburban sprawl place on all rural and farming communities. Though the contributing factors are complex and varied, African-Americans need all possible support in their efforts to preserve landownership.

Black Family Land Trust · 307 West Main Street · Durham, NC 27701 · Phone: 919.683.5263 · Fax: 919.683.5264 ·
PO Box 2087, Durham, NC 27702