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Descendants of West African slaves fight to defend their lands in the US

The age-long tradition where properties belonging to West African slaves are passed down generations is under attack as properties of residents in Black communities in South Carolina are confiscated and sold for ridiculous reasons, wrecking many black families apart.

These properties, land especially were all legally acquired by these people and owned in common due to lack of trust for the legal system; whilst some of them bought lands with their hard-earned resources, others acquired theirs through deeds from the government after emancipation in 1865.

Although these properties belong to the descendants of Black slaves, they are restricted from selling them for profits; any attempt to do so will result in confiscation; moreover, residents living in these areas are forced to pay taxes, the refusal of which also leads to confiscation and auction of their properties.

Gullah Geechee crafts
Works of The Gullah Geechee community : ALAMY

Speaking to BBC, Lillian Milton who happens to be a victim narrated how her property was sold because she was unable to settle a tax of $250. Her house which was initially valued at $46,700 was sold to a real estate developer for merely $1,236.

“They had sold everything, the property, the house and all and when I offered to pay them with a cheque, they told me I couldn’t. I had to get cash money – 880 some dollars that I had to pay them to get my place back.” She told BBC.

Even though Lillian managed to retrieve her property through legal tussle and help from friends, she told reporters that, she is not the only one who lost her property for similar reason; the past week, 20 houses belonging to black people living in these communities were earmarked for auctioning on same grounds.

Residents, some of whom are retired workers leave in fear of losing their properties. “We call them ‘strangers’ and we are afraid of them. Because they come to take your land. “They are millionaires, in big cars, driving slow, staking out property, dreaming on what it would be like to have a motel on the river right here.” they told reporters.

Lillian Milton and daughter Linda Milton Eaddy
Lillian Milton & daughter Linda Milton Eaddy are worried about their future: EILEEN KEITHLY/S S NEWS

The local authorities justified the tax system introduced, arguing that, Septic tanks of some of the residents pose health hazards hence the decision to tax each $250 for a sewer service; however, some white landowners in the area sided with the black community in suspicion of a foul play and deliberate attempts to grab properties disguised as a tax system which was not even part of the agreements of these people. The descendants are poised to do everything within their capacity to defend their properties and rights.

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