“100 Dollars and Other Valuable Considerations”

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2022-04-20

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Abstract

Land and homeownership are topics of much debate, concern, and intervention in modern Black political thought. Discussion of Black land loss, while longitudinal in scope, often places the origins of Black land ownership in the early 1900s. In this paper, I challenge this notion, first placing the origin of Black land ownership in the antebellum period and examining Black land ownership for the following century. To do so, I constructed the narratives of six Black-owned parcels from their acquisition to their status in 1950. My first chapter offers a brief exploration of the history of Black ownership between 1850 and 1950. In my second chapter, I examine the circumstances of the deprivation of that land, inclusive of the political, economic, and white-supremacist tools used to do so. In my third chapter, I consider conceptions of Black land from prominent Black authors like W.E.B. DuBois to the presence of land in abolitionist politics. Then, I offer the complete histories of six formerly Black-owned parcels of land from 1850 to 1950 and the presence of tools of preservation and deprivation of Black ownership in these parcels. I conclude with a brief analysis of the five parcels, an acknowledgment of the limitations of this work, and a discussion of the significance of this work on Black vital records research. By the end of the period, only two parcels were possessed by Black individuals, and only one of those was a direct connection through shared lineage. The chains of title created during this research indicate that wills and end-of-life legal planning best-ensured property were successfully passed from one Black owner to the next, a mechanism that heavily favored families in wealthy, free, Black communities.

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Reneau, Olivia (2022). “100 Dollars and Other Valuable Considerations”. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/25480.


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