Federation of Southern Cooperatives 
Land Assistance Fund
For More Information on
Land Ownership Issues go to:

What is African-American
Land Ownershhip?

For More Information on
Black Farmer History go to:

Black Farmers in America 1865-2000: The Pursuit of Independent Farming and the Role of Cooperatives




   1861 Civil War begins. 

   1862 Congress creates the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

   1862 Congress passes the Morrill Act (or Land Grant Act) to create land grant colleges for agriculture and mechanical arts for whites. 

   1865 (January)  Congress adopts the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution to abolish slavery. 

    1865 (January)  After meeting with freed slaves in Savannah, Georgia - in what became known as the Savannah Colloquy - General William T. Sherman responded to their pleas for land. In January he issued his famous Field Order 15 setting aside a huge swath of abandoned land along the Georgia and South Carolina coast for black families on forty acres plots. He also said that army mules no longer in use would be offered to Black farmers. This is likely where the "Forty Acres and a Mule" legend began. Sherman never stated whether this was to be a permanent or temporary land acquisition.

  1865 (March) Congress establishes the Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (Freedmen’s Bureau) providing for the allocation of “unoccupied land” to freedmen (not to exceed 40 acres) - rather than 40 acres as requested, Congress allowed the Freedmen’s Bureau to sell only 5 to 10 acre tracts of land to freed slaves. 

   1865 (April 9)  Civil War ends. 

   1865 (April 14 ) Republican President Abraham Lincoln assassinated and succeeded by Vice President Andrew Johnson (former U.S. Senator from Tennessee). 

   1865 (May) President Johnson announces his Reconstruction Plan. The plan calls for the Southern States to abolish slavery but does not offer a role for Blacks in Reconstruction. The southern states are to determine the role of Blacks themselves. 

   1865 (June) Some 40,000 freed slaves were settled on what was referred to as "Sherman's Land" on some 400,000 acres of land in Georgia and South Carolina. Much of this land was for rice cultivation. The Freedmen created their own government, denied white access to the area and cultivated their land.

   1865 (Summer) President Johnson reverses Sherman's Field Order 15 by ordering that virtually all plantation lands given to freed slaves be returned to the original plantation owners.

   1865 (October) A reluctant General O. Howard, Chair of the Freedmen's Bureau assigned the task to tell freed slaves in Georgia and South Carolina that they must return the land they had settled on to the original owners. Some 2,000 Blacks came to the local church on Edisto Island to hear his comments. Howard said the freed slaves need to "lay aside their bitter feelings. and to become reconciled to their old masters." They responded "No, never!" "Can't do it!" "Why, General Howard, do you take away our lands?" Petitions by Blacks were drafted to protest betrayal. The first stated: " General, we want Homesteads, we were promised Homesteads by the government. If it does not carry out the promises its agents made to us...we are left in a more unpleasant condition than our former....You will see this is not the condition of really free men." (Eric Foner & Joshua Brown Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction)

   1866 Congress passes the first Civil Rights Act over a presidential veto - Johnson opposed federal protection of the rights of Blacks. 

   1866 Congress adopts the 14th amendment giving citizenship to Blacks. 

   1866  The U.S. homegrown terrorist organization known as the Ku Klux Klan is created in Tennessee by Nathan B. Forrest to disrupt the progress of changing the framework of the south away from a slaveocracy, and to engrain white supremacy into southern life. It spreads into "nearly every southern state, launching a 'reign of terror' against Republican leaders both black and white." (Foner & Brown)

   1867 Congress passes a series of Reconstruction Acts abolishing Southern State governments under Johnson’s plan. Election boards in each state required to register all adult Black males and all qualified adult white males. Johnson vetoes these acts and Congress easily overrides the veto. 

   1868  Congress attempts to impeach President Johnson which is defeated by one vote. 

   1869 Congress adopts the 15th Amendment making it illegal to deny males the right to vote because of their race. 

   1877  The Compromise of 1877 ending reconstruction: The 1876 presidential election between the Democratic candidate Samual Tildon and the Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes is in dispute. The tallies in Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina are questioned. Congress appoints an election commission composed of 5 representatives, 5 senators and 5 Supreme Court justices. Hayes wins but a compromise is agreed upon behind the scenes. The Hayes will be recognized by the South if the federal government agrees to no longer intervene in southern affairs and consequently remove the Federal troops from the South. The Compromise of 1877 was the death knell of reconstruction and laid open the tragic decline into the devastating Jim Crow period in U.S. history.

   1877 Reconstruction ends with Democratic control of the South and laws are passed throughout the south denying Blacks the right to vote. 

   1890 Congress passes the second Morrill Act to create land grant colleges for Blacks. 

   1890’s The “Colored Farmers National Club and Cooperative Union of the United States” is created in Arkansas. 

   1896 U.S. Supreme Court passes Plessy v. Ferguson legalizing separate but equal facilities  for whites and Blacks which supports the “Jim Crow” laws passed in the South denying Blacks their rights. 

   1910 peak of land ownership for blacks.  Collectively blacks own 15 million acres of land of which 218,000 black farmers are full or part owners.  A steady decline of landownership begins after 1910. 

    1946 Congress creates the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) to offer credit designed to improve the income of the small farm owner often known as the “lender of last resort”. 

  1964 The Civil Right Bill is passed to enforce the constitutional right to vote, to confer jurisdiction upon the district courts of the United States to provide injunctive relief against discrimination in public accommodations... (US Gov't source)

  1965 The Voting Rights Act is passed - By 1965 concerted efforts to break the grip of state disfranchisement had been under way for some time, but had achieved only modest success overall and in some areas had proved almost entirely ineffectual. The murder of voting-rights activists in Philadelphia, Mississippi, gained national attention, along with numerous other acts of violence and terrorism. Finally, the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965, by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, en route to the state capitol in Montgomery, persuaded the President and Congress to overcome Southern legislators' resistance to effective voting rights legislation. President Johnson issued a call for a strong voting rights law and hearings began soon thereafter on the bill that would become the Voting Rights Act. (US Gov't source)

    1967 Federation of Southern Cooperatives founded to assist in the economic development of black farmers and the rural poor. 

    1969 James Forman releases "black manifesto' In Detroit calling for $200 million for a southern land bank. 

     1973 "Only Six Million Acres" published by Black Economic Research Center under leadership of Bob Browne.  Browne wan others were concerned at the pace of land being lost by the Black community.

    1973 Emergency Land Fund (ELF) formally organized to address the issue of black land loss. Bob Browne was the founder.  

    1981 With a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture, the Emergency Land Fund conducts its seminal research on heir property in the Black community in the rural south. The study is known as "The Impact of Heir Property on Black Rural Land Tenure in the Southeastern Region of the United States." It was found that one of the primary reasons Blacks loose land is because of heir property - land being owned by the family - which can more easily be absconded by developers or the government.

    1982 U.S. Commission on Civil Rights reports one of the primary reasons blacks lose land is because of discrimination from the USDA and that the FmHA mantra of being the "lending institution of last resort" did not apply to Black farmers.

    1985 ELF merges with the Federation to become the Federation Of Southern Cooperatives /Land Assistance Fund. 

    1990 Federation/LAF successfully leads efforts to pass the first "Minority Farmers Rights Bill" (section 2501 ) to provide technical assistance to black farmers. 

    1990 The first law suit filed against the federal government on behalf of all black farmers by the Farmers Legal Action Group with the assistance of the Federation/LAF. 

    1992 the US Census Of Agriculture reports there are 18,000 black farmers left owning 2.3 million acres. 

    1992 the Federation/LAF leads the first black farmer "Caravan to Washington" to address the plight of black and other minority farmers. 

    1997 USDA holds listening forums to hear from minority farmers. 

    1997 USDA’s Civil Rights Action Team develops 92 recommendations to end discrimination within USDA. 

    1997 second law suit on behalf of black farmers' filed against the federal government. 

    1998 Coordinating Council of Black Farm Groups created. 

    1998 (October 9)  U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman designates Pigford V. Glickman as a “class”. 

    1999 (January 5) Consent decree  arranged between attorneys for farmers and USDA attorneys - attorneys agree to settlement in class action suit filed by farmers. Attorney J.L. Chestnut in Alabama was the only black attorney serving as class counsel.

    1999 (March 2) U.S. District Court Judge Paul Friedman holds fairness hearing on Consent Decree in the U.S. District Court.

     2004 (August 15) Bob Browne dies - founder of ELF.

    2008 (September 30) Attorney J.L Chestnut dies - class counsel in the Pigford v Glickman class action lawsuit.

    2008 Congress passes the Farm Bill which includes provisions for "late" filers in the Pigford lawsuit to proceed with the claims process - it is known as "Pigford Two"

    2009 President Barack OBama's Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack issues a 14 point statement on civil rights initiatives at USDA entitled "A New Civil Rights Era for USDA".

   2010 December 8, 2010 President Barack Obama signs bill authorizing $1.25 billion dollars in appropriations for the Pigford II lawsuit after Congress approved the legislation in November 2010.

For More Information on Land Ownership Issues go to:
What is African-American Land Ownership?


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