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How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland – And Why 1890 HBCUs Are Partially To Blame

Every good citizen makes his country’s honor his own, and cherishes it not only as precious but as sacred. He is willing to risk his life in its defense and is conscious that he gains protection while he gives it. – Andrew Jackson

Ukraine has been preparing for years for the eventual invasion that would come from Russia. It has been so even prior to Russia’s invasion and capture of Crimea in 2014. Why? Ukraine’s intelligence for one, President Vladamir Putin’s writings that expressed sentiment that the breakup of the Soviet Union was a great tragedy of the 20th century, Russia’s 2008 invasion of Georgia, and because well that is WHO Russia is and has shown itself to be. It would have been more of a shock were Ukraine to act shocked at Russia invading more than Russia invading. Put another way, if Ike Turner slapped someone and they were surprised, who is crazier – them or Ike Turner?

This seems to be African America always when it comes to European America though. Constantly surprised by consistent behavior. Harlem, Houston’s Third Ward, New Orleans, Compton, Roxbury, so on and so forth. What do all of these have in common? They were once thriving African American strongholds until gentrification. Each time the gentrification wave came, African Americans in those communities were caught off guard, unable and unprepared to launch a counterattack (or offensive).

In a recent article by The New Republic titled, “How the Government Helped White Americans Steal Black Farmland”, in detailed fashion we learned about one of the most vital departments of any country, agriculture, which impacts land, development, life expectancy, water and mineral rights, and so much more was used by the U.S. government through the USDA to spearhead the wealth transfer of African American farmland into European America’s hands. “Black farmers not only lost out on these massive subsidies—they have been effectively disenfranchised within the modern agricultural system. Under conditions of savage oppression, Black families emerged in the early 1900s with almost 20 million acres of farmland and “the largest amount of property they would ever own within the United States,” according to the historian Manning Marable. Since then, they have lost roughly 90 percent of that acreage” says New Republic. According to New Republic, there will be a study put out soon by the American Economic Association’s Papers and Proceedings journal that will value the land lost between 1920 and 1997 at approximately $326 billion. An amount that is equal to over 20 percent of African America’s $1.6 trillion buying power. The $326 billion valuation excludes the 160 million acres that Africa Americans who were enslaved were owed post Civil War from Special Order No. 15 that guaranteed the former enslaved population of around 4 million 40 acres apiece, but was reneged upon by the U.S. government ultimately making the loss arguably worth trillions today. Yes, trillions. The economic loss has had catastrophic social, economic, and political echoing impacts for generations. “Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality”, Malcolm X said. This alluded to the belief that every revolution was and is about land given that it impacts everything that lays to bear on any group, community, country, and diaspora. African American institutions, especially those focused on agriculture, should have made the protection of African American land a strategic priority.

Enter the 1890 HBCUs, which were created with the Second Morrill Act of 1890. There were 19 HBCUs created under this act (and two HBCUs which were created under the First Morrill Act of 1862, which primarily created HWCU agriculturally focused colleges and universities). For all intents and purpose, 1862 and 1890 colleges and universities were created with an emphasis on agriculture. Tuskegee, through the political clout of Booker T. Washington, is the only private HBCU that has land-grant status. The other two private universities that are land-grant institutions are Cornell and MIT. Among the 1890 HBCUs, they have three of the six HBCU law schools housed at Florida A&M University, Southern University System, and University of the District of the Columbia. Despite this, based on their websites none of three have any focus/concentration on agricultural law. This means that more than likely African American farmers and landowners are in the hands of lawyers who are both non-African American and trained at an HWCU/PWI institution. Given historical behavior, it is not hard to assume that those lawyers do not work in the best interest of our community. It also once again poses the question of the lack of strategy among African America at using its institutions to protect its social, economic, and political interest. Stemming the tide requires a change in HBCU strategy and realizing the purpose of our institutions is to serve and protect the other parts of the African American ecosystem.

There are a few pointed pivots that 1890 HBCUs can do to serve and protect the agricultural interest of African America. First, the three 1890 law schools (FAMU, SUS, and UDC) can create an African American agriculture concentration in their law schools. Again, to be clear, an African American agriculture concentration is not the same as general agriculture, which tends to be from a Eurocentric perspective. Focusing on agricultural law from the African American agricultural perspective and interest is paramount. Secondly, the three 1890 law schools can create a joint organization for African American Agriculture Defense Fund that will serve as a means to fund law defense for African American farmers, lobbying efforts towards African American agriculture, and regional African American agriculture legal research. Thirdly, all of the 1890 HBCUs needs to create master’s programs in agricultural law and policy focused on their respective local, state, and regional geographies. They can then push for alumni to create scholarships that will allow for a pipeline of agriculture majors to pursue law degrees at the three 1890 HBCU law schools. Lastly (but not all), a concerted emphasis on offering courses, lectures, and seminars on the purchase and maintenance of African American land ownership emphasized to students and alumni and available to our entire community.

If HBCUs are not going to be part of the institutional ecosystem built to serve and protect African American interest, then what is their purpose? Without protecting African American land, what little is left of it, then what is to come of African America? Protecting African American land takes more than just HBCUs, it also requires African American owned financial institutions, real estate organizations, families, communities, and more. However, 1890 HBCUs must take the vanguard and protect what we have so that we can start to stem the tide and move the trend upward again. The notion that land theft and assaults have been happening to African America for 100 years and we still have yet to respond with a counterattack or an offensive of our own is telling. HBCUs also are becoming more and more vulnerable to their land and the communities they are in, which are typically African American, being gentrified and the use of predatory land theft and assaults heightened. Howard University, Prairie View A&M University, and Texas Southern University all are witnessing land theft and assaults on the land surrounding their institutions. Unfortunately, there was and continues to be no unified strategic planning to protect them. In Howard University’s case, white residents have even been so gall as to suggest that the school be moved. This is just one example of over a century of attitudes that have helped lead to others justifying land assaults on African American landownership. We know who are our enemies are, we have the intelligence and tools, now is the time to start urgently preparing our troops to defend our lands.

The HBCUpreneur Corner – Prairie View A&M and Florida A&M’s Misha Granado & Love Grows


Name: Misha N. Granado, MPH,MS

Alma Mater: Prairie View A&M University (1998), Florida A&M University (2004/2007)

Business Name & Description: Love Grows: The Relationship Consultants is a boutique firm specializing in improving all relationships, beginning with the relationship one has with self. We use a strength-based, love centered approach and offer services: Bringing Love into Existence (counseling, interactive workshops), Speaking Love into Existence (lectures) and Writing Love into Existence (books & editorials) to help our clients heal their emotional wounds in order to experience an amazing life and relationships.

What year did you found your company? 2010

What was the most exciting and/or fearful moment during your HBCUpreneur career? Love Grows is more than a business, it is a lifestyle, my purpose and life work therefore the opportunity to make a sustainable living and life doing what I love, which is to grow love is absolutely amazing. Love is one of the most sustainable, renewable resources we have and unfortunately many people are not maximizing their potential because of the various blocks (unhealed emotional wounds) that prohibit the movement of love through their life. Love Grows is doing our part to help people heal their emotional wounds in order to love self fully and others better; and in that way we are an environmental company as well, making the world a better place one relationship at a time.

In my life and as an entrepreneur, I learned quite quickly that there is no room for fear which affects my vision and critical thinking because valuable time and energy is spent thinking about the worst case scenario instead of possible solutions. Although unexpected situations may occur, I now choose to view them as opportunities to be creative, to find the most optimal solution to this new challenge. A ‘challenging situation’ presented itself during the late summer when I received word that the building where I had my office had been sold (I did not know it was on the market) and myself (along with the other tenants) had to find a new space. I had only been in the office for 5 months and had invested a great amount of resources to convert the space (wood floors, painted, new fixtures, etc.). I had acquired new clients and now needed to find a new space that was inside the loop, artsy, offered 24/7 access and had beautiful energy (yes, energy is very important to my business).

Although Houston is a large city, it is somewhat challenging to locate a ‘non-traditional’ office space inside the loop that is artsy and would allow me to renovate the space to my specifications all under $1000 and this was the challenge, to locate such a space without disrupting my clients. Since I no longer operate from fear, I was able to view this as a challenge and began to explore various ‘non-traditional’ spaces to determine if any of them would work for Love Grows. During this exploration time, I also contacted the property manager at a beautiful location that was significantly out of my budget when I inquired earlier this year. Well I was in luck, this magnificent space had expanded and the new space also carried a lower price tag than the original space and Love Grows had a new home. If I would have operated in fear, I would not have thought to contact the property manager and I may have made compromises to what I wanted and needed from a space.

What made you want to start your own company? Prior to beginning Love Grows, I had 10 years counseling experience which included an adjunct professorship. I implemented a ’10 minute freestyle session’ in my Introduction to Psychology class, which provided the students with the opportunity to discuss current events or any other topic of interest. This was implemented as a way to unite the diverse student body that ranged from freshman to seniors. Trust and rapport was quickly established and these 10 minute sessions, quickly turned into a ‘therapy session’ of sorts. My students revealed all type of experiences and it became evident that these young people did not have a healthy outlet to process their feelings and when given the opportunity all they wanted (and needed to do) was get it all out. This was a class that swelled to 150 students (some of whom were not registered) who showed up every session because we were able to create a safe space to grow. After the course, many students inquired if I had a book or if I was available for individual therapy sessions. This is when I knew I had a gift, the ability to establish and nurture relationships in which people felt safe to share. Life is comprised of relationships, and the relationship one has with self, determines and influences all the relationships in one’s life. Through years of professional and personal experience, I knew that the key to improving the relationships in our lives is to improve the relationship we have with self. In the summer of 2010, I established Love Grows: The Relationship Consultants with the purpose of helping others heal their emotional wounds in order to love self and others better, which would ultimately improve their relationships.

Who was the most influential person/people for you during your time in college? At Prairie View A&M University, Drs. Janet Beal and Kevin Washington and at Florida A&M Unviersity Drs. Huberta Jackson-Lowman and Cynthia Warrick.

How do you handle complex problems? As a creative being, my complex problems require open space, I literally have to get out of the building and step into nature. I take my shoes off and wiggle my toes in the grass. It is here under the blue skies, breathing natural air and the absence of gadgets (yes, I take a notebook and pen with me on these journeys) where I begin to view the situation from all angles. I identify the resources I have access to and the ones I need to obtain. I create a plan and the steps needed to execute.

What is something you wish you had known prior to starting your company? More information about the funding available to entrepreneurs.

What do you believe HBCUs can do to spur more innovation and entrepreneurship while their students are in school either as undergraduate or graduate students? Allow more critical thinking in the classroom. Unfortunately, I think many programs are focused on teaching information and the students who have great memories are the ones who usually perform the best, repeating the information; however, I think the true key to learning is to provide a concept and allow students to build around or from it. To partner with entrepreneurs and establish a mentorship program where students have direct access to people who are actually built and are living their dream. There are infinite ways to achieve success and success varies for everyone. The opportunity to have a mentor who truly invests in his/her mentee is priceless.

How do you deal with rejection? I know I sound like I am the one repeating information now *lol* but my answer remains the same, perception. I view rejection from one as the clearing of space for another.

When you have down time how do you like to spend it? I adore art and beauty and like to spend my time engaging in both. I recently began painting (acrylic) and actually completed my first painting Dec. 1 (a great way to begin the month). I also adore traveling, especially internationally and being that relationships are my life, spending time with vintage (established) and new friends and loved ones.


What was your most memorable HBCU memory? Oh wow, it has to be from my undergraduate years at PV, spending time with the ‘Cali homies’, the shenanigans that took place on the yard, the parties and the simple life we had back then which consisted of class, friends and beginning the journey of discovering who we were and who we were meant to become.

In leaving is there any advice you have for budding HBCUpreneurs?

  1. Do not be afraid to have astronomical dreams!
  2. Get a mentor, but do not ‘rewrite’ your dream to mirror another’s so much that it is no longer your own.
  3. Shift your perspective (unless you are a trust fund baby *lol*), becoming an entrepreneur will require you to redirect your discretionary funds into your business.
  4. Learn to delay your gratification, you may not be able to go to Miami for Memorial Day Weekend with your friends, but you can redirect those funds into revamping your website, purchasing other materials/equipment/etc. for the business, paying the office rent for a few months or investing in yourself by taking a course, attending a retreat, etc.
  5. An entrepreneur lives a very different life than the individual working for someone else because the entrepreneur has very different goals and aspirations. Your life and the investment of your time, energy and resources should reflect these differences.