Class of 2022
Hometown: Valparaiso, FL
Majors: Public Policy and History
Minor: Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Mellon Mays Project: “100 Dollars and Other Valuable Considerations”: Cases of Black Landownership and Loss in Wilmington, NC
Land and homeownership are the topic of much debate, concern, and intervention in modern Black political thought. Discussion of Black land loss, while longitudinal in scope, often places the origins of Black land ownership and in the early 1900s. In my Mellon project, I challenge this notion, placing the origin of Black landownership in the antebellum period. To do so, I comprehensively quantify Black land ownership on the 1860 census in Wilmington. I then, using more than 300 documents from the New Hanover County Deed registry, detail the narrative of five Black-owned parcels from their acquisition to their status in 1950. By the end of the period, only two parcels were possessed by Black individuals, and only one of those was a direct connection through shared lineage. Parcels that did cross the color line from Black to White owners often significantly increased in value in transaction after parcel’s crossing. The chains of title created during this research indicate that wills and end-of-life legal planning best ensured property was successfully passed from one Black owner to the next, a mechanism that heavily favored families in wealthy, free, Black communities.
What is the best thing about your Mellon Mays experience?
The Mellon Mays Programs has afforded me community where I didn't know it existed. Having the means to connect to my peers of color who also intend to pursue academic is cathartic and affirming. It has given me the encouragement to continue down the path of graduate studies even when faced with financial, cultural, and mental obstacles.