This is a repost from The Conversation.
Authors: Kofi Boone, professor of landscape architecture, College of Design, North Carolina State University; Julian Agyeman, professor of urban and environmental policy and planning, Tufts University
Underlying the recent unrest sweeping U.S. cities over police brutality is a fundamental inequity in wealth, land and power that has circumscribed black lives since the end of slavery in the U.S.
The “40 acres and a mule” promised to formerly enslaved Africans never came to pass. There was no redistribution of land, no reparations for the wealth extracted from stolen land by stolen labor.
June 19 is celebrated by black Americans as Juneteenth, marking the date in 1865 that former slaves were informed of their freedom, albeit two years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Coming this year at a time of protest over the continued police killing of black people, it provides an opportunity to look back at how black Americans were deprived of land ownership and the economic power that it brings. An expanded concept of the “black commons” – based on shared economic, cultural and digital resources as well as land – could act as one means of redress. As professors in urban planning and landscape architecture, our research suggests that such a concept could be a part of undoing the racist legacy of chattel slavery by encouraging economic development and creating communal wealth.
The proportion of the United States under black ownership has actually shrunk over the last 100 years or so.