9 of the Biggest Slave Owners in American History

Col. Joshua John Ward of Georgetown, South Carolina: 1,130 

Known as “King of the Rice Planters,” Ward had 1,130 enslaved Blacks on the Brookgreen plantation in South Carolina. In 1850, Ward controlled six large plantations and produced 3.9 million pounds of rice.

Dr. Stephen Duncan of Issaquena, Mississippi: 858
Duncan was a businessman who collectively enslaved more than 2,000 Blacks during his time as one of the best cotton producers. The most he enslaved at one time was 858 in Issaquena. Duncan owned more than 15 plantations in Mississippi and Louisiana.

Houmas House Plantation  A.K.A.  “Sugar Palace”

John Burneside of Ascension, Louisiana: 753 

Burneside was the largest sugar producer in the country during his time at the Houmas Plantation. Before he died, he owned 10 different plantations.

Meredith Calhoun of Rapides, Louisiana: 709

Plantations belonging to Calhoun surrounded the riverboat landing that would one day become the town of Colfax. At the peak of production, the Calhoun plantations held more than 700 Blacks in slavery and produced more cotton than any other property in Louisiana. The Calhouns established one of the largest sugar mills in Louisiana, and the estate was valued in excess of $1 million in the 1860 census, a considerable holding at that time.

William Aiken of Colleton, South Carolina: 700 

Aiken was one of the state’s wealthiest citizens, owner of the largest rice plantation in the state — Jehossee Island — with over 700 enslaved Blacks on 1,500 acres under cultivation, almost twice the acreage of the next largest plantation. By 1860, Aiken owned the entire Jehossee Island, and the plantation produced 1.5 million pounds of rice in addition to sweet potatoes and corn — in the middle of the 19th century, rice was king in South Carolina — of the 10 largest cash crops in 1850, seven were rice, two cotton and one sugar. After the Civil War, the plantation regained its preeminence, producing 1.2 million pounds of rice. Today, descendants of the Aiken family, the Maybanks, still own part of the island, having sold the remainder in 1992 to the U.S. as part of the ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge.


Gov. John L. Manning of Ascension, Louisiana: 670

Manning owned at least two plantations holding 670 Blacks against their will. One in South Carolina and another in Louisiana. He was a major supporter of succeeding from the Union.


Col. Joseph A. S. Acklen of West Feliciana, Louisiana: 659

As the second husband to “the mistress of Belmont” Adelicia Acklen, Joseph Acklen tripled the value of his wife’s million-dollar estate. They had seven Louisiana cotton plantations; the 2,000-acre Fairvue Plantation in Gallatin, Tennessee; more than 50,000 acres of undeveloped land in Texas; stocks and bonds; and 659 enslaved Blacks.


Gov. Robert Francis Withers Allston of Georgetown, South Carolina: 631 

His family was able to maintain two houses in Georgetown and several plantations, including the Allston ancestral home on the Pee Dee River, Chicora Wood — one of the five plantations Robert Allston owned, with over 900 acres and more than 600 enslaved Blacks.

Bonny Hall Plantation

Joseph Blake of Beaufort, South Carolina: 575 
The Blake family enslaved Black people for generations on a rice plantation in Beaufort (Prince William’s Parish). Joseph Blake had two plantations, one in Prince William’s Parish and another in St. Peter’s Parish. The former one was called Bonnie/Bonny Hall, on the Combahee River, south of the town of Yemassee, with 330 acres.

Source: 9 of the Biggest Slave Owners in American History

St. Louis Police Claim ‘Friendly Fire’ Incident After White Cop Shoots Black Off-Duty Officer

The off-duty officer came from his nearby home after hearing the commotion from the crash. (Image courtesy of KTVI News) 

An off-duty cop was wounded by a fellow officer following a high-speed chase that ended near the off-duty officer’s home in St. Louis’ North Pointe neighborhood late Wednesday. 

Local station Fox 2 Now reported that the incident began shortly after 10 p.m. when a police recognition system spotted a stolen car from Maryland Heights, spurring the car chase. Three people in the vehicle reportedly fired shots at officers after the authorities used spike strips to stop the car. 

The vehicle eventually crashed in front of a house, after which more gunfire was exchanged, according to the news station. 

That’s when the off-duty officer, who is African-American, heard the commotion and walked from his nearby home to assist his fellow officers. He was quickly ordered to the ground by two officers already at the scene, to which he complied. Once the officers finally recognized him, the off-duty cop was told he could get up. 

A third officer arrived on the scene, however, who didn’t recognize the off-duty officer and ended up shooting the man in the arm. The off-duty officer, who is an 11-year-veteran of the force, was taken to a local area hospital and treated for his wounds. 

Meanwhile, the on-duty officer, who is a 36-year-old white male, told the city he feared for his safety, according to Fox 2 Now. 

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that police initially called the incident an example of “friendly fire” and that the 38-year-old Black officer got “caught in the crossfire” between the police and the suspects. But a department summary of the incident, released Thursday, June 22, revealed that the off-duty cop was actually shot by another officer in a separate encounter away from the initial chase/crash. 

“In the police report, you have so far, there is no description of threat [the on-duty officer] received,” Rufus J. Tate Jr., attorney for the off-duty cop, said. “So, we have a real problem with that. But this has been a national discussion for the past two years; there’s this perception that a Black man is automatically feared.” 

Tate claims his client identified himself as an officer at the time of the incident. 

There are no details on whether the on-duty officer has been placed on administrative leave. 

Two suspects in the chase were apprehended. A third is still at large, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Source: St. Louis Police Claim ‘Friendly Fire’ Incident After White Cop Shoots Black Off-Duty Officer

Arab Leaders Call Out Their Own Community for Negative Attitudes, Bigotry Toward African-Americans


African-Americans seemingly share a common struggle against the power structure that is white supremacy, it’s no secret that the two groups have a less-than-ideal relationship. 

Former Michigan state Rep. Rashida Tlaib experienced the rift first hand after participating in a protest demanding police accountability in the deadly shooting of Kevin Matthews, an unarmed Black man, by a Dearborn police officer in 2015. Speaking to The Arab American News, Tlaib said she was met with snide remarks from big-name members from the Arab community, revealing anti-Black sentiments among some leaders. 

“‘Why are you there? Why are you against Chief [Ronald] Haddad?’” the ex-representative said she was told. “‘This makes the Arabs look bad. You guys shouldn’t be there. This isn’t your issue.’” 

Tlaib denounced anti-Black attitudes held by members within the Arab and Middle Eastern societies, saying, “No one, I don’t care what color, what faith, should be dehumanized like that. The anti-Blackness that’s happening across this world is real. It’s very painful.” 

Relations between Blacks and Arabs in Tlaib’s native Detroit have been strained for years, prompting the local politician to call for sincere efforts from her fellow Arab-Americans to try and empathize with Black Americans and their fight against police brutality. Moreover, she urged Arab-Americans to remain self-aware of their own racial biases. 

The newspaper noted that a prominent Arab-American activist from Dearborn was arrested at a demonstration in Ferguson, Mo., following the fatal shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown in 2014. Back in Detroit, however, Arab-Americans were on social media dubbing the protesters “thugs.” 

“It’s a fractured relationship,” said Rana Elmir, deputy executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Ultimately, it’s a relationship that’s based on transactions, as opposed to true understanding, solidarity, empathy.” 

Elmir, an outspoken activist for allyship between communities, explained that building an understanding between the two groups could take some time and noted the responsibility of both Arab-Americans and Black Americans to make an effort to mend the fray. She pointed to the geographical segregation of concentrated areas of African-Americans and Arab-Americans in Southeast Michigan, which has made it harder for the two groups to break racial misconceptions they have about one another 

“We often come together when there is a problem, when there is a need for communities to come together because there was a shooting or because of an eruption of anger or fear,” she told The American Arab News. “But outside those news events, are we having these difficult conversations?” 

Amer Zahr, a comedian and adjunct law professor at the University of Detroit, highlighted the fact that some of the anti-Black attitudes in the Arab-American community stem from the designation of Arab-Americans as “Caucasian” in the U.S. census. He noted that Arab-Americans often interact with African-Americans in business settings (gas stations, liquor stores), creating a “transactional” relationship that has spurred bigotry on both sides. 

“When you own a business in a low-income community that’s not very mobile, and people have to come to you, that creates a position of power structure that’s not very healthy for creating relationships that are good to social justice,” he told the newspaper, adding that Arab-Americans need to start identifying themselves as an oppositional group against the system. 

“We do have a responsibility,” he said. “We shouldn’t just be crazy capitalists in an urban society.”
Source: Arab Leaders Call Out Their Own Community for Negative Attitudes, Bigotry Toward African-Americans

Black College Suspends Professor After On-Air War of Words with Fox News Host

A New Jersey professor claims she was “publicly lynched” after she was suspended “until further notice” following an on-air feud with Fox News host Tucker Carlson. 

Former Essex County College professor Lisa Durden got into a heated argument with the political pundit during a live segment earlier this month where she passionately defended the Black Lives Matter movement and its “Blacks-only” Memorial Day event barring non-Black people from attending. At one point in the frenzied exchange, Durden tells Carlson, “Boo-hoo-hoo, you white people are just angry you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited into the Black Lives Matter all-Black Memorial Day celebration.” 

The public dispute ultimately cost the professor her job. 

Durden told Inside Higher Ed she was escorted from her classroom at the majority-Black college and whisked into a meeting with Essex administrators who told her she was being suspended and investigated. An angry phone call to the school from one of Tucker’s loyal viewers who griped about the professor’s “exclusionary attitude” likely spurred the suspension. 

“They wanted to send a message,” Durden said, claiming Essex used her as an example to other outspoken professors. “‘[You] see what happened to Lisa Durden? You know it could happen to me.’” 

“Free speech doesn’t matter if you’re a professor; make people mad and you’re in trouble,” she added. 

Durden said the viewer’s complaint came as a surprise, seeing as she regularly appears on Fox News and other news shows to discuss everything from “Kim Kardashian’s ass to tough issues such as Black Lives Matter.” In fact, she claims it was her outspoken attitude and the fact that she had appeared on so many networks that led Essex College to bring her on as an adjunct professor of communications. 

During her time on Carlson’s show, Durden never identified herself as an Essex professor and made it clear that she was speaking on behalf of herself, not Black Lives Matter. Still, the college moved to fire her. “

[Essex County] college promotes a community of unity that is inclusive of all,” Jeffrey Lee, vice president for academic affairs, told NJ.com in a statement. “[The] general counsel has handled this matter in a way that complies with New Jersey state law. I am not at liberty to provide further details.” 

Durden said she feels the college is “kowtowing” to a “racist” critic instead of standing up for hers and other professors’ First Amendment right to free speech. Her suspension has since prompted students and fellow professors to pen letters to the administration calling for her reinstatement. 

“For those of us who are involved in advocacy, politics, who may hold opinions which differ from those in different spaces, this kind of thing has a terrible chilling effect,” Rebecca Williams, an assistant professor of humanities, wrote in her letter to the administration. “As this suspension will become public in the world of academia — and especially in Black public intellectual circles — it will bring more negative publicity to our institution even as we are trying to move forward with our new president,” 

Communications Professor Jennifer Wager agreed, saying, “I find it shocking that an African-American woman would be so disrespected at her place of employment for merely exercising her First Amendment right to free speech.” 

Durden’s supporters have since launched an online petition toward her reinstatement that has amassed nearly 1,200 signatures. The ousted professor said someone else has taken over her course.  

Source: Black College Suspends Professor After On-Air War of Words with Fox News Host

Why Are Black Alabama Babies Dying at Triple the Rate of Others?

The racial disparities in infant mortality rates in the United States have long been appalling. Nationwide, Black infants are 2.4 times more likely to die than white babies, but in Alabama the situation is particularly shocking. While the infant mortality rate has dropped for white babies per 1,000 live births — from a high of 8.2 in 1996 to 5.2 in 2015 — an Alabama Media Group analysis of Alabama Department of Health data has found that Black infant mortality is actually on the rise. 

A staggering 15.3 Black babies die per 1,000 live births, making African-American babies three times more likely to die in the state than white babies. So what’s responsible for the trend? Unfortunately, no clear-cut answer exists. A toxic mix of poverty, racism, lifestyle choices, irregular prenatal care and even environmental factors contribute to this tragic trend. Most telling is that 45 percent of Black Alabama children are growing up poor, but just 18 percent of white children in the state live in poverty, according to the group VOICES for Alabama’s Children. 

The racial gap in the infant mortality rate is hardly limited to Alabama, though. Bigger disparities can be found in racially diverse and politically liberal enclaves. In San Francisco, Black women are six times more likely to have an infant die than white women are, and in Washington, D.C., Black women are 10 times more likely to lose their babies, The Nation reported in February. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified pre-term birth as the top contributor to the infant mortality rate, and Black women are 1.5 times more likely than white women to give birth to premature babies. Children born before the 37th week of pregnancy are considered premature. However, health care officials lack reliable methods to determine which women are at greater risk of having pre-term babies. Induced labor, C-sections and pregnancies involving multiples all pose an increased risk, but women without any of these factors give birth to premature infants all the time. The CDC also points to lifestyle factors to explain racial disparities in infant mortality rates. It encourages mothers of color to eat nutritiously, see health care officials regularly and take prenatal vitamins daily, among other tasks. 

But even Black women who do all of the right things remain at high risk of giving birth to babies they will ultimately lose. In February, The Nation magazine profiled Tonda Thompson, who was working as a model in Los Angeles when she became pregnant in 2012 at age 25. Thompson said she never missed a doctor’s appointment while expecting, made sure to take her prenatal vitamins and not to gain too much weight. In a long-term relationship with a man she eventually married, Thompson welcomed motherhood. Sadly, her baby boy, Terrell, died at less than 24 hours old as a result of delivery complications. 

Since even upper-income, highly educated Black women are more likely to suffer the loss of a baby than white women are, researchers have begun to seriously consider the role of racism in this urgent health problem. They know, for example, that the stress of racism can lead to health problems such as hypertension, which is dangerous during pregnancy. The likelihood that racism plays a role in infant deaths also is borne out by the fact that Black immigrant women in the U.S. don’t experience infant mortality rates as high as native-born Black women. That may be because these women come from mostly Black countries, where racism isn’t a regular occurrence in their lives. 

“There’s something about growing up as a Black female in the United States that’s not good for your child-bearing health,” Dr. Richard David told PBS about a landmark 2007 study Chicago medical researchers conducted about race and the infant mortality rate. The study found that the effects of racism appear to cause Black women in the U.S. to deliver babies with low birth weights, making the infants more likely to die or suffer from health problems, should they live. Environmental factors, such as rising lead levels in the bloodstreams of Black women living in lower-income neighborhoods, also may contribute to the problem. 

But the link between racism and the Black infant mortality rate doesn’t absolve the health care world of its responsibility in this crisis. Black doctors are woefully underrepresented in the industry, making up just 5 percent of all practicing physicians. And medical biases continually lead to African-Americans receiving substandard health care, such as fewer treatment options and less-potent pain medication. Despite all their training, white doctors also hold on to absurd beliefs that dehumanize African-Americans, such as the notion that Blacks literally have thicker skin than Caucasians do. (They don’t.) 

Across the board, Black women have poorer outcomes in reproductive health than white women do. They are more likely to suffer from infertility and its potential contributors, such as uterine fibroids, than white women, but they’re less likely to achieve pregnancy through in vitro fertilization. And it’s not just their babies who die. Black women are four times more likely to die from pregnancy complications than white women. These statistics, combined with a long and shameful history of doctors sterilizing Black women without their consent, make it crystal clear that if more Black babies and their mothers are to survive pregnancy, labor and delivery, health care personnel can’t just point the finger elsewhere. They have to look within their medical establishments and question whether they are doing all they can to help African-American women get pregnant, stay pregnant and give birth to full-term babies who go on to thrive. The trove of data available about Black women’s health outcomes overwhelmingly suggests that they have not. How many Black babies have to die before officials behave as if they think Black women and Black infants matter?

Source: Why Are Black Alabama Babies Dying at Triple the Rate of Others

3Black-Led Development Project Aims to Bring Displaced African-Americans Back Into Seattle’s Central District

The new Liberty Bank Building will provide over 100 new homes for Seattle residents. (Image courtesy of Capitol Hill Housing)

This past weekend, a coalition of Black community groups in Seattle, Wash., commemorated Juneteenth with the ceremonial groundbreaking of a new affordable housing building project aimed at encouraging African-Americans to return to the city’s Central District.

Fittingly dubbed the Future Liberty Bank Building, the new real estate project will honor Seattle’s first Black-owned bank that once occupied a much smaller establishment right where the housing is set to be built, local station KUOW.org reported.

Andrea Caupain, CEO of Centerstone, one of the groups involved in the project told, the station the coalition is working to encourage Black residents who have been displaced or priced out of the neighborhood to move back, while still abiding by Seattle’s first-come, first-serve rental rules.

“It’s not going to be a situation where we’re only going to market to the African-American community or we will turn someone away who is not African-American,” Caupain said. “But, really, how do we dive deeper and go specific and target the African-American community, people who we know want to come back to the CD?”

The local CEO said the groups plan to market their goals to areas of the Black community where information regarding affordable housing has failed to reach city residents. She said the coalition also has reached out to local Black-owned businesses to help occupy Liberty’s many retail spaces.

“We’re looking at Black businesses that have been in the Central Area for a long time, that have a strong desire to stay in the community,” Caupain told KUOW. “We’re also looking at Black businesses that maybe were here before and had a desire to continue their business, but for various different reasons, including affordability, could not continue.”

On its website, the Liberty Bank Building development touts itself as an affordable housing and community empowerment project focused on creating a new standard for real estate in Seattle’s Central District. Local groups The Black Community Impact Alliance, Africatown-Central District Preservation and Development Association, Capitol Hill Housing and Centerstone all have a hand in the community-led effort to redevelop the area.

The new project promises to offer a number of advantages to residents, including support for Black-owned businesses, affordable commercial spaces for local businesses, a track to long-term Black ownership of the building and the prioritization of local and minority hiring.

Caupain said construction on the development is expected to begin later this summer.

Members of the coalition didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Source: Black-Led Development Project Aims to Bring Displaced African-Americans Back Into Seattle’s Central District 

Jury In Philando Castile Case Packed with White, Middle-Aged, Gun-Loving Police Supporters

Many jurors in the criminal case against ex-officer Geronimo Yanez expressed support for the police and gun ownership. (Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)

A detailed look at the jurors in the criminal case against former Minnesota officer Jeronimo Yanez offers new insight into how the cop who fatally shot Philando Castile managed to get off scot-free.

A piece published by the Minnesota Star Tribune last Friday, the same day a jury found Yanez not guilty on the charge of manslaughter, revealed small, but significant, details about the 12 men and women selected to hear the case against the ex-cop. Even after viewing dashcam footage of the harrowing final moments of Castile’s life before he was riddled with seven bullets from the officer’s gun, jurors moved to acquit Yanez, sending shock waves across the nation.

The acquittal didn’t come as a surprise to many due to the U.S.’s dismal track record of prosecuting officers who shoot and kill Black Americans. The makeup of the jury board, then, provided further evidence that the odds were already stacked against Castile in his family’s quest for justice.

According to the Star Tribune, there were just two Black jurors on the panel. Juror One was described as a young African-American who “who works as a shift manager at Wendy’s and a personal care attendant for his mom.” Though he’s never had any run-ins with the police, the juror expressed some distrust with the justice system, saying “he believed the wealthy and powerful could get off in the legal system because they could hire better attorneys.”

Juror Eight was an 18-year-old Ethiopian woman who had immigrated to the U.S. when she was just 10 years old. The newspaper noted that the defense tried to remove her from the panel due to her unfamiliarity with the American justice system, but “the judge denied the attempt.”

The rest of the jury, however, was comprised of mostly middle-aged white Minnesotans who expressed outward support for law enforcement or an unwavering faithfulness in the justice system. For instance, Juror Two was characterized as an older white woman “who manages a White Bear Lake gas station that has a contract with police.” The judge in the case denied prosecutors’ request to strike her from the board despite the revelation of pro-police posts on her Facebook page, according to the newspaper.

“One of those posts was heavily critical of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during national anthems last year to protest police shootings,” the piece stated. “She said she had forgotten about the posts.”

Juror Three, a middle-aged white male whose wife worked for the same school district as Castile, outwardly admitted that it would be hard for him to be unbiased because he grew up around law enforcement and his nephew is a police officer. He was still cleared to sit on the panel. Juror Five expressed a “high regard for police” and noted that her husband was carjacked at gunpoint 18 years ago.

Juror Four was a gun owner who believed the criminal justice system is “a very fair process,” while Juror Eleven was “a middle-aged white male who owns several shotguns and long rifles to hunt pheasants,” the Star Tribune reported.

The rest of the jury members held similar beliefs — beliefs that were blatantly slanted in favor of Yanez.

While the outcome of the case was cause for outrage, the composition of the jury was seemingly proof that the U.S. justice system is operating in the way it was designed to.

Source: Jury In Philando Castile Case Packed with White, Middle-Aged, Gun-Loving Police Supporters

TOP 7 BLACK-OWNED DOLL MAKERS AND DESIGNERS

Doll making has been around since the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece and Rome. The first usage of dolls as toys has been documented in Greece around 100 AD. The most well-known doll makers and designers in the U.S. include Mattel, Hasbro, and others. But there also many African and African American entrepreneurs that are in the business!
Here are 7 of the top Black-owned doll makers and designers:

#1 – Trinity Designs: This Texas-based doll maker began making African American dolls in 2001. Their product line includes dolls that capture the image and character of the African American sorority sister, as well as adult, collectible dolls, which can be purchased online.

#2 – Uzuri Kid Kiz: This doll maker is based in Columbus, Ohio, and has been making dolls that reflect the African American culture since 1997. The word “uzuri” means beauty and expresses the company’s belief that all kids are beautiful, no matter what color or race they are.

#3 – Queens of Africa Dolls: This Nigerian-based company makes dolls (pictured above) and doll accessories that promote the African heritage. Their dolls have both natural and braided hair and are dressed in clothing made from African colors and prints. The dolls are available worldwide, but are especially popular in Nigeria, where they are said to be easily outselling Barbie® dolls.

#4 – Tonner-One World DollsThis company’s slogan is “We are pretty girls, and we rule the world.” Founders Trent T. Daniel and Stacey McBride-Irby (who  former designed Barbie® dolls for Mattel) created a multi-cultural line of girl dolls in 2010 to fill a gap in diverse representation in the doll industry. They are based in Houston, Texas.

#5 – Double Dutch DollsDouble Dutch Dolls designs and produces a line of multi-cultural dolls, books, and accessories for girls ages 8 and up. The dolls are African-American, Hispanic, Biracial and Multiracial. The company was founded in 2013 and is based in Marietta, Georgia.

#6 – Positively Perfect Dolls: The company was founded in 2010 by a mom and former professor as a way to encourage young girls. The dolls, which are available in local Target and Walmart stores, are designed to “encourage dreams, promote intelligence, challenge perceptions, and open hearts to all types of beauty.”

#7 – EthiDolls: This company makes authentic, collectible African-American signature dolls and accessories that embrace African heritage, culture, and history. The company was founded in 2003 by two women Ethiopian entrepreneurs from the New York City area. Their goal was to develop a line of culturally authentic and unique Signature Dolls and Accessories that teach history and celebrate cultural diversity.

Black doll enthusiasts are also encouraged to visit The National Black Doll Museum in Mansfield, Massachusetts. The museum was founded in 2012 and is the first museum in New England and the second museum in the nation dedicated to preserving the history of black dolls. For more information, visit www.nbdmhc.org

 

Source

A billion-dollar industry, a racist legacy: being black and growing pot in America


Three years ago, Jesce Horton, a former engineer in his early 30s, quit his corporate job to set up his own small, family-owned cannabis cultivation business in Portland, Oregon.

Horton is part of a nascent industry thatnetted $6.7bn last year and is projected toreach $50bn by 2026. And as one of the few black business owners in an industry whose legality varies by location, he stands out.

“I guess how I dress is hip-hop hipster. I have my Jordans, but I also have my beard and a Portland hat,” Horton says with a chuckle when asked to describe himself.

Horton’s parents were at first lukewarm about his plan to sell a substance associated with decades of systematic imprisonment that have devastated communities of color. But the young entrepreneur sees the partial legalization of cannabis as an opportunity not just for business, but to acknowledge past wrongdoing and seek economic justice.

There is an obvious chasm between the number of people of color who have been jailed for simple possession during the “war on drugs” and the number of white men who are starting to make millions in profit from the industry. Formal statistics do not exist, but first-hand accounts and reports confirm that cannabis entrepreneurs are overwhelmingly white. Last year, aninvestigation by Buzzfeed estimated that less than 1% of cannabis dispensary owners across the country were black.

Solutions are now being explored through reparations – mainly in the form of measures addressing this imbalance.

For the first time, policy and local pieces of concrete legislation in cities including Oakland, California, and Portland, Oregon, encourage participation in the regulated marijuana industry by communities of color, or reinvestment into these communities.

These quiet, small steps towards justice are nothing short of revolutionary.

A white man’s industry: $710,000 for a license

 Jesce Horton: ‘This business has been family from the start’. Photograph: Jesce Horton

Horton is proud to live in Portland, he says, for it is the first US city to vote to dedicate a portion of its recreational cannabis tax revenue towards investment into “communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition”.

Beyond investing in businesses and training, the fund will also partly finance the expungement of cannabis convictions.

Such policies, reparative in ambition and nature, recognize that the current playing field was historically set up to be inequitable. Cannabis culture may be open in ethos, but so far, with few exceptions, the industry has proven itself glacier white.

Horton and fellow advocates offer three reasons for this.

One, most states have barred anyone with a criminal record from entering the industry. The US is home to an estimated 70 million Americans with criminal records, and adisproportionate number of those are men of color (according to a Pew Research Centerstudy in 2013, black men were six times more likely to be incarcerated than white men).

Two, by varying degrees, depending on the state, the economic barriers to entering the industry (application fees, license fees and startup fees) are extortionately high.

In Pennsylvania, for instance, where medical cannabis was legalized last year, only a small handful of licenses were set to be given out. Wannabe growers were required to pay a $10,000 non-refundable application fee, together with a $200,000 deposit. They also had to provie proof of $2m in funding, with at least $500,000 in the bank.

(Oregon, where Horton lives, is an outlier. Barriers of entry there are low, with number of licenses granted limitless, application fees at $250, and yearly licenses never exceeding the $6,000 mark.)

Banks, still jumpy from federal prohibition, are not lending. Application numbers are also vastly restrictive and rely on opaque selection processes, in which connections are important. This means applicants with personal wealth or access to networks of wealth are at a high advantage. In a still segregated America, the median American white family is 13 times wealthier than the median black family, and 10 times wealthier than the median Hispanic family.

Three, even where there are funds to be sourced, communities of color are often loath to take a chance on openly doing business with a drug they have seen too many of their kin targeted, criminalized and locked up over.

“Unless measures are taken to recognize and reconcile the harm done by the war on drugs, unless we reach out to communities of color to include them, communities will see legal cannabis as a slap in the face and won’t use it,” Horton says.

To change that, Horton spends a large portion of his time trying to uplift current and would-be cannabis entrepreneurs of color. He does this through a Minority Cannabis Business Association, which he heads, and by advocating for laws that get to the roots of why communities of color have been excluded from the industry.

A place for every color, race and creed

Legacy weighs heavily on Horton, and not simply because he just welcomed his first child.

Horton’s father was sent to prison as a young man on cannabis-related charges. After serving his sentence, he found work as a janitor at a large corporation, where he slowly worked his way up through the ranks, retiring as a vice-president.

Horton was himself also arrested and charged for minor cannabis possession three times, but he says he lucked out. “I was able to get out of the criminal justice system with little,” he says. Friends were less fortunate, and some of them are still behind bars because of the drug.

Eventually, seeing his seriousness, Horton’s parents came around to his business plan. Part of the seed money came from his parents and their fellow retired friends.

 Horton (right), his employee Linda, and his cousin, who also works for the business. Photograph: Jesce Horton

Horton’s medical cannabis company originally served eight patients, selling off the rest of his modest crop to dispensaries. He is now preparing to launch a much larger all-purpose facility, which will grow, sell and provide space to safely consume weed on a three-acre piece of property, formerly an auto wrecking ground.

“It’s been family from the start. My mom and my dad even came and helped with the first harvest.”

For years, Horton’s two full-time employees were his cousin, who moved from North Carolina to work with him, and a woman named Linda. She serendipitously landed with the company after she lost her job. She’s in her 60s, and the only white person of the trio. She has recently been diagnosed with cancer, so Horton has set to work trying to develop a cannabis strand to help her deal with the illness.

“We are a bit like the Brady bunch,” Horton offers. “It’s the best of cannabis culture. The idea that there is a place for every single color, race, creed. At this point, I don’t have a lot, but I am passionate. I feel like I have a short window of opportunity to put my son in a better position, build a better position for my family and my community – for people of color.”

Horton doesn’t want to be the exception to the rule, either. It doesn’t seem right, and it doesn’t seem fair, especially since the depiction of cannabis and the depiction of race have been intertwined from the get-go.

For instance, the original federal document outlawing cannabis in 1937 employed “marihuana”, a Hispanic slang term, that until then was not the most common term for the plant. Accounts have suggested it was chosen to make the drug instantly associable with Mexicans, or non-white people.

While studies have shown that cannabis consumption is similar in terms of percentage across races, black and brown people are far more likely to be arrested for both distribution and simple possession of the drug in the US – about four times on average nationwide.

After successive presidents embraced a “war on drugs” starting in the 1970s, portraying drugs, including cannabis, as the root of evil, the prison population ballooned at an astonishing rate. Today, with 2.3 million people locked up domestically, the US is the world’s largest incarcerator.

In an in-depth analysis on the subject, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) found that over the course of the first decade of the 21st century, even as cannabis legalization was beginning to take hold, cannabis arrests increased, rather than the opposite. The study recorded 8m marijuana arrests across the country, 88% of which were for possession alone.

‘This is a moment in time that we may never see again’

Oakland, California, has offered perhaps the most groundbreaking laws to date addressing the issue.

A recent city-commissioned report spoke in stark and harsh terms of, on one hand, the existence of mostly white medical cannabis businesses, and on the other a cracking down on black and brown community members for cannabis possession and distribution.

Oakland is about one-third black, one-third white and one-third Hispanic, but cannabis-related arrests in Oakland in 2015 involved black people in 77% of cases, and people of color in about 95% of cases.

White people represented 4% of cases.

At the end of March this year, following the release of the report, Oakland’s city councilvoted on a set of regulatory measures for medical cannabis dispensaries in what is referred to as an equity permit program.

Its scope, ambition and framing are unprecedented.

 Christina, one of Jesce Horton’s former employees, at work. Photograph: Jesce Horton

Under new rules, at least half of new cannabis business permit holders, issued by the city at a maximum rate of eight a year, will have to go to “equity applicants”. Applicants must earn less than 80% of the city’s median income; and they must either have been residents of police beats disproportionately targeted by law enforcement in recent decades, or they must have been sent to prison on cannabis charges within the last 20 years.

“Non-equity” applicants not fitting this criteria will be given priority for the other half of permits available if they incorporate helping equity applicants with free rent or real estate.

“Honestly, I think this is a moment in time that we may never see again,” Oakland’s vice-mayor, Annie Campbell Washington, said during a council meeting. “We have the ability to right the wrongs of structural racism so directly and try to level the playing field and benefit the actual group of people who were harmed.”

To the north, Portland, Oregon, is the first city to direct part of its cannabis revenue taxes towards reinvestment into communities of color. Los Angeles and San Francisco are seeking to implement similar policies.

Massachusetts, which voted to make cannabis legal for recreational use at the end of last year, is the first state to include a section of the law which requires the participation of communities criminalized and economically crippled during the “war on drugs”.

While details are still being smoothed out, the text of the law is extraordinary in that it creates a link between a formerly criminalized population and the new industry. There is no formal apology or admission of wrongdoing, but it is not a stretch to see the wording as a recognition of people being owed something, and between the lines, the need for repair.

Massachusetts is also the first state not to bar former convicted felons from operating in and around the industry.

Meanwhile, California’s new adult use law, which also passed last November, requires a portion of the taxes collected from cannabis businesses to be re-invested into “communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies.”

Much of this may seem utopian, or at least unrealistic. Steps for reparations, which, in the American context, most often refer to a call to pay damage to the descendants of slaves violently brought from Africa for the purpose of multi-generational labor exploitation, have repeatedly gone nowhere.

But these measures could mark the first time an explicit form of reparations takes hold in this country.

Jeff Sessions: ‘Good people don’t smoke marijuana’

Of course, at a federal level, cannabis remains illegal. In fact, it is classified as a Schedule I drug, which means the federal government sees the drug as having no medical benefit whatsoever. This marks it as more dangerous than Schedule II drugs, which include opioids, meth, and cocaine, among others.

Starting in 2013, under Barack Obama, a “Cole memo” unofficially agreed to exercise discretion and turn a blind eye on in-state legal cannabis activities, so long as those states enforced “strong and effective” regulation.

But Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has called for renewed efforts in combatting drugs, which he has described uniformly as “bad”. In 1996, the Alabama Lawyer reported that Sessions, then Alabama attorney general, had introduced a package of crime bills for the state to “fix a broken system”. One of those bills sought to impose the death penalty as a mandatory minimum sentence for second time offenders of the state’s anti-drug trafficking law. Trafficking charges included non-violent cannabis charges.

The crime bill did not pass, and at his federal confirmation hearings this January, Sessionssaid that such measures were “not his view today”. But as recently as last year, Sessions was emphatic that he believed cannabis was “dangerous” and “damaging”, repeatedly calling during a Senate hearing on the matter for federal law to be enforced.

“Good people don’t smoke marijuana,” hesaid.

This could prove worrying for cannabis entrepreneurs but even more so for communities of color, for whom the business of cannabis has never ceased to be equated with the risk of imprisonment.

Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the Criminal Law Reform Project at the ACLU, warns Sessions is “a drug warrior of the first order”. He says Sessions would not be reviving a war on drugs, only re-escalating one that never went away.

“Even after marijuana legalization, we continue to fight a drug war in communities of color. Arrests are still being done, including in states where legalization has taken place, and still disproportionately in communities of color. That war is not over,” Edwards says.

Lynne Lyman, the state director for the California branch of the Drug Policy Alliance, who helped successfully get recreational cannabis legalized duringNovember’s elections, says that a large part of her work is what she calls “anti-stigma work”.

Anti-stigma work involves making people who use and sell drugs be seen as people first.

For cannabis entrepreneurs, this means no longer treating black sellers of cannabis as dangerous “dealers” to be incarcerated, and white sellers of cannabis as exciting, legitimate trailblazers, with the laudable American flair for risk.

Confronting that stigma takes you to the core of it all.

Source: A billion-dollar industry, a racist legacy: being black and growing pot in America