Some Black Farmers Say Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Settlement Too Small
Posted February 28, 1999 6:00 a.m. EST
ZEBULON — They lost farms, homes, credit and credibility. Now, North Carolina's black farmers are trying to get compensation.
The farmers say our government refused to help them. And, they say a proposed national settlement is too little, too late. They are headed to our nation's capital to rally for more.
Monday night, about 70 farmers left Zebulon on a bus headed to Washington, D.C. They are protesting a settlement the Department of Agriculture is offering to end a racial discrimination lawsuit.
The farmers say the offer does not do enough to correct decades of discrimination.
Andre Richardson farms 4,000 acres of tobacco, soybeans and corn in Johnston County. But, he does not own any of the land. He rents it mostly from white landowners.
Richardson says he was denied a low interest government loan when he wanted to buy a farm of his own.
The Department of Agriculture has agreed to settle a discrimination lawsuit brought by farmers like Richardson. He says the $50,000 they are offering some farmers is too little, too late.
"My daddy has been here farming, I've been here farming, for 20, 30, 40 years, and you talk about $50,000. In Wake County, $50,000 will not buy two acres of land. It's an insult," said Richardson.
The USDA admitted it wrongfully denied loans to black farmers. But under the settlement, no one at the department would be punished for discrimination.
"We want the county superintendent who is still there who discriminated against us, we want them fired. The ones that are drawing retirement, we want the retirement stopped because they discriminated against blacks," said Richardson.
Richardson believes he has little to lose by fighting for a better settlement. Farming has been in his family for three generations. He doubts it will be passed down to a fourth.
"I'll go to my grave fighting this thing. I'm not going to give up. It's going to be a fight until I die," said Richardson.
Tuesday morning, the farmers will tell a federal judge what they think of the proposed settlement.
The judge will also hear from farmers who want to accept the deal and decide if the offer is fair.