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Black Americans Are Fighting for Justice After Centuries of Land Theft

Housing Policy + Finance

Black Americans Are Fighting for Justice After Centuries of Land Theft

The ‘Where Is My Land’ initiative is helping hundreds of Black families across the country who are fighting for the return of stolen land

March 1, 2022
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In September 2021, nearly a century after Willa and Charles Bruce’s oceanfront property was seized following systemic harassment and violence from the Ku Klux Klan, California Governor Gavin Newson signed a groundbreaking bill which reinstated the family’s descendants as the rightful landowners. In response, a national initiative called ‘Where Is My Land’ has received over 400 requests from Black families across the U.S. seeking the lawful return of their property or compensation, says

For centuries, native Americans and people of color have been driven off of their land by white neighbors and local officials bulldozing entire communities to make way for highways or public projects. The ‘Where Is My Land’ initiative offers justice for families who can prove ownership through documentation, and families without documentation can also proceed through a court process with proof that fraud, such as forged signatures on ownership documents, was involved.

After decades of land theft, government-sanctioned redlining, predatory lending practices, eminent domain policies used to obliterate Black communities and promote segregation, and other discriminatory policies, the Black homeownership rate was just 43.1% in the fourth quarter of 2021. That was compared with 74.4% for white households, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

“There isn’t any particular land that was more likely to be taken—it was whatever was valuable in that particular situation,” says Alison Rose Jefferson, author of “Living the California Dream: African American Leisure Sites during the Jim Crow Era.”

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