Rooted: The American Legacy of Land Theft and the Modern Movement for Black Land Ownership

One World. Jun. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780593447376. $30. HIST
This book is writer/freedom fighter Baker’s (contributor, Our History Has Always Been Contraband) way of spotlighting the land theft that her grandfather, along with many other Black people, experienced in North Carolina. There’s evidence that between 1910 and 1997, Black Americans lost about 90% of their farmland. But Baker’s grandfather and others refused to give up the Southern lands that their Black ancestors cleared, cultivated, and enriched. They wanted to create an inheritance for their progeny, but, as Baker notes, that led to many battles. Her book’s 18 chapters weave personal commentary, reflections, and family anecdotes into a historical narrative revealing the ugly, often brutal, history of racial dominance and subordination that dispossessed Indigenous communities and denied landownership to emancipated Black people who saw it as essential to freedom. Baker praises the foresight of Black elders for seeing Black-owned land as the path to securing a vibrant future for generations to come. She also issues a call to action for Black people to return to the land as a path to self-actuating a self-sustaining, ecofriendly, economically and socially free community that thrives while developing intergenerational wealth.
VERDICT Readers interested in a broad interpretive sketch of dispossessive effects of colonization, enslavement and its aftermath may be drawn to Baker’s personalized recounting of the continuing significance of Black people’s efforts to realize the dream of owning land and the profits it produces.
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