Land is one of the greatest and most valuable assets African American farmers possess. Black farmland ownership, which peaked in 1910 at 16 to 19 million acres, has decreased to less than 3 million acres today. The causes of underutilization and loss of rural black land are numerous and complex, but none is more notable than heirs property.
In a new segment for the TODAY Show, Cornelius Blanding, Executive Director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/ Land Assistance Fund, discusses how agriculture and family farms will change as Black farmers secure property rights.
Heirs Property is created when a landowner dies without a will, or other forms of estate planning, for the transfer of ownership of land to another prior to death. Subsequently, heirs property owners do not have clear title to the land they own. Today, it is estimated that over 60% of all black-owned land is heirs property.
For over 50 years, the Federation has provided education and technical assistance to thousands of heirs property owners across the South. The Federation’s overall mission has been to reverse the trend of black land loss and to encourage land-based economic development. In support of this mission, the Federation established its Regional Heirs Property and Mediation Center in 2017 to coordinate a collaborative network of partnerships and resources to address the systemic problems associated with heirs property throughout the Black Belt region. These partnerships are providing rich opportunities for research and advocacy on heirs property issues.