An illuminating article in the New York Times outlines the injustice endured by the Neck Land Trust, a group of black landowners who lived in a thriving community, hunting and farming, before the federal government seized their land to build an airstrip in 1942. The residents are Gullah/Geechee, descendants of West African slaves who became some of the nation's earliest black landowners. Their distinctive culture, preserved for years by isolation on the coastal barrier islands, has been threatened by development to such a degree that in 2006, Congress designated a Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, stretching from North Carolina to Jacksonville, Fla.
Their story is about modernity versus tradition, black versus white and right versus wrong.
During World War II, when the federal government was looking for an area for an Air Force base, the government condemned the land and ordered the families to clear out with the promise, some residents recall, that they could come back after the war.
The elders, many of whom are still alive and remember barefoot childhoods spent climbing trees and waking to watch the Canada geese depart in formation, are asking Congress to return the land to them. They said they were given little time to move before their houses were burned. Some had to live in barns to survive.
The Fish and Wildlife Service maintains that the land is a crucial part of the national refuge system, implying that residents can't successfully coexist with the wildlife on Harris Neck. Gullah/Geechee residents disagree.
"Wildlife was a part of us all of our lives," said Kenneth R. Dunham Sr., 80, who was a child when the federal government gave Harris Neck families two weeks to leave before their houses were bulldozed and burned. "In my back door, I could hear the wild geese coming. We left food in the field, so they would have something to eat."
Harris Neck was deeded by a plantation owner to a former slave in 1865. Black families who settled there built houses and boats and started crab and oyster factories. The independent nature of the community was too much for the area's whites, though.
There's no question about what the right thing would be for the government to do: give the land back to the landowners. It would continue to preserve the environment and culture of the Gullah people -- one of America's most distinct vestiges of pre-enslaved African culture.
This likely won't happen without our support. If you support these residents, write or call your congressman or call representatives in Georgia and let your voice be heard.
21-June-10 - The children's grandmother and legal guardian, Katherine, recently had a sit-down with U.K. newspaper the Daily Mail and revealed some heart-tugging facts about how her grands (Prince, 13; Paris, 12; and Blanket, 8) still grieve the loss of their famous dad.
18-June-10 - Angela Lowe, the widow of R&B singer Sean Levert, who died suspiciously six days after being jailed back in March 2008, has settled her lawsuit against Cuyahoga County in Ohio and the umbrella company that oversees medical care at the jail.
16-June-10 - I know I'm supposed to be all outraged about the Seattle cop punching the teen in her face because I'm black and stuff like that, HOWEVER, I don't know whether it's because I'm a jaded '80s baby tired of young people's lack of respect for authority or I'm just insensitive, but I think the girls in this video absolutely deserve what they got.
15-June-10 - Jarretta Hamilton is angry and unemployed. The 39-year-old teacher was fired last April because she had sex before marriage and wound up pregnant. Now she has broken her silence and has gone public.
12-June-10 - I am not quite sure what to make of the ruffled YouTube video that is now scouring the web out of Paterson, New Jersey, where an officer inexplicably grabs a man, turns him around and puts pepper spray in to his eyes twice.
11-June-10 - Indianapolis Police Chief Paul Ciesielski called for the firing of a white officer who's been charged with repeatedly striking a 15-year-old biracial boy in the face during an arrest. The attacks allegedly occurred after the boy had been subdued by other officers.
09-June-10 - Gary Coleman's ex-wife, Shannon Price, is up to her post-hubby's-death antics again. As if masterminding the sale of Coleman's pre- and- post-death photos wasn't enough, now the merry widow has managed to get in to Coleman's home and take practically everything that wasn't bolted down! Click Here for the Complete Story
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