Black farmers file claims for $1B settlement in Durham
Posted January 16, 2012
Updated January 17, 2012
Durham, N.C. — Hundreds of black farmers traveled to Durham on Monday to file claims in a $1 billion settlement for being treated unfairly by the U.S. government.
Last year, President Barack Obama signed into law the settlement that covers 58,000 black farmers nationwide who were denied loans commonly given to white farmers.
“We went to the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) to try to get a loan. My father, my mother, my grandfather and we were denied because of our race,” farmer Troy Murray said Monday.
Murray said he wonders why the settlement took so long.
“Why did it wait until we lost everything?” Murray said.
Joseph Pridgen lost his farm, too.
“I just tried to make it, but I couldn’t,” Pridgen said.
Attorneys in Durham were helping families apply for their share of the settlement at no cost. Most eligible claims amount to about $50,000 per family.
“It symbolizes the effort of these farmers over the years to be part of the civil rights struggle, the freedom struggle to be treated fairly,” state Rep. Paul Luebke said.
Luebke and state Sen. Floyd McKissick went to Durham on Monday to show support.
“Trying to right the historical wrongs is extremely important. These farmers have suffered, they've suffered enough,” McKissick said.
Some farmers say they hope the settlement will get them back into the industry.
“I thought to myself, maybe I could get me some land and get back to doing a little bit more,” Pridgen said.
Others say it is a small payment for decades of pain.
“It’s going to help, but it won't heal the scar,” Murray said.
Local attorneys working on the claims say eligible farmers don't have to pay anything to file, and should beware of others looking to charge them. They expect many of the claims to be paid out by the end of the year.
This is the second round of funding for black farmers from a class-action lawsuit originally settled in 1999 over allegations of widespread discrimination by local Agriculture Department offices in awarding loans and other aid. It is known as the Pigford case, named after Timothy Pigford, a black farmer from North Carolina who was an original plaintiff.