Stolen Land

During the fall of 1912, when white mobs forced Black residents from the county, Black landowners faced the agonizing decision of selling their property below its value or attempting to retain ownership. According to the historian Elliot Jaspin, only twenty-four of the county’s fifty-eight Black landholders managed to sell. One man, Alex Hunter, bought a farm for $1,500 in mid-1912. He sold it in December for only $550. For thirty-four landowners, though, there is no record of sale. Their white neighbors simply took the abandoned land through a legal process called “adverse possession” and gained ownership over the following decades by paying the property taxes. The issue of stolen land would spark a debate about reparations in the 1980s.