Wisconsin Chef Hopes to Rectify Nation’s Broken ’40 Acres and a Mule’ Promise by Raising Money to Buy Land for Black Farmers

Chef Adrian Lipscombe

Chef Adrian Lipscombe was startled last spring when the unsolicited donations began arriving at her Wisconsin cafe and bakery.

Just days had passed since the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, and checks and envelopes containing cash started showing up.

“People were sending me money, and it wasn’t for anything,” Lipscombe told Yahoo News.

Accompanying nationwide calls for an end to police brutality against African Americans, a trend was underway to support Black-owned businesses, including Lipscombe’s restaurant, the Uptowne Café & Bakery. The donations started with a mysterious $100 check in the mail and then more donations through Venmo began pouring in. But instead of frivolously spending the steadily accumulating funds on herself, the Texas native decided to put the money toward what she sees as a decades-old debt to the nation’s Black farmers.

Lipscombe’s land being blessed by elders from the community, her distant relatives and others, including Michael Twitty, Mashama Bailey and David and Tonya Thomas. / TODAY

“I needed to put it towards something … and one thing that I noticed working in [Wisconsin] is that we didn’t have a lot of Black farmers,” she said, noting that less than 2 percent of farmers nationwide are Black. “So I said, ‘I am going to start an initiative that’s going to look at buying Black land, but also preserving the legacy of Black farmers and the legacy of Black food ways.’”

So in June of last year, Lipscombe launched the “40 Acres & a Mule Project,” a reference to the broken promise of reparations for American slaves following the Civil War. The project’s goal was to buy 40 acres of land to develop “a safe haven to secure the legacy” of Black agricultural heritage, according to its website.

Shortly after launching the initiative, Lipscombe set up a GoFundMe page, and in less than five months, she was able to purchase 38 acres of land in St. Helena, S.C., in partnership with Muloma Heritage, with the proceeds. Buoyed by that success, she plans to partner with other groups and buy more land in places like upstate New York, rural Texas and some Western states, with the goal of eventually developing it into expansive farms that will benefit Black farmers.

In its first year, her project has raised more than $150,000, which she plans to use to pay property taxes, surveying costs and as a downpayment in St. Helena for the construction of a visitors center where Black farmers can learn about the history of the industry.

“This initiative of ‘40 Acres’ is just a start for me,” Lipscombe said. The average cost of an acre of land in the U.S. starts at just over $3,000, and can go for as much as $10,000-$15,000, according to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, depending on several factors, including the soil and topography.

The idea of attempting to rectify the injustice of slavery through the apportionment of land is not new. Just a few months before the Civil War in January of 1865, Union Gen. William T. Sherman issued Special Field Order 15, which set aside land along the Southeast coast for Black Americans who had served in the war so that “each family shall have a plot of not more than forty acres of tillable ground.” This plan later became known as the promise of “40 acres and a mule,” a commitment to reparations that never came to fruition.

Click here to read more.

SOURCE: Yahoo News, Marquise Francis

When you purchase a book below it supports the Number #1 Black Christian Newspaper BLACK CHRISTIAN NEWS NETWORK ONE (BCNN1.com) and it also allows us to spread the Gospel around the world.