[URBANTH-L] NEWS: New Study Details Devastating Effects of Eminent Domain Abuse on African Americans

Angela Jancius jancius at ohio.edu
Tue Feb 20 19:51:54 EST 2007

New Study Details Devastating Effects of Eminent Domain Abuse on African 
CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
February 14, 2007

Arlington, Va.-"Eminent domain has become what the founding fathers sought 
to prevent:  a tool that takes from the poor and the politically weak to 
give to the rich and politically powerful," concludes Dr. Mindy Fullilove in 
her new report released today titled, "Eminent Domain & African Americans: 
What is the Price of the Commons?"

Eminent Domain & African Americans is the first in a new series of 
independently authored reports published by the Institute for Justice, 
Perspectives on Eminent Domain Abuse, which will examine the different 
aspects of eminent domain abuse from the vantage point of noted national 
experts.  The release of this inaugural report is particularly timely this 
month, as millions around the nation learn about African American history.

In this study, Dr. Fullilove, a research psychiatrist at the New York State 
Psychiatric Institute and a professor of clinical psychiatry and public 
health at Columbia University, examines the effects of eminent domain abuse 
on the African American community.  Focusing specifically on the Federal 
Housing Act (FHA) of 1949, Dr. Fullilove finds that "[b]etween 1949 and 
1973 . 2,532 projects were carried out in 992 cities that displaced one 
million people, two-thirds of them African American," making blacks "five 
times more likely to be displaced than they should have been given their 
numbers in the population."
Although urban renewal under the FHA was discontinued in 1973, Dr. Fullilove 
reported "the tools of urban renewal had been honed through 20 years of 
projects.  Politicians and developers found that they could repackage 
eminent domain and government subsidies in many new ways, facilitating the 
taking of land for 'higher uses.'"

Dr. Fullilove shares the story of David Jenkins-who lost his Philadelphia 
home to urban renewal in the 1950s-to illustrate the devastating impacts of 
forced displacement.  "Within these neighborhoods there existed social, 
political, cultural, and economic networks that functioned for both 
individual and common good," explains Dr. Fullilove.  "These networks were 
the 'commons' of the residents, a system of complex relationships, shared 
activities, and common goals"-the loss of which cannot be replaced or 

"What the government takes from people is not a home, with a small 'h', but 
Home in the largest sense of the word:  a place in the world, a community, 
neighbors and services, a social and cultural milieu, an economic anchor 
that provides security during the ups and downs of life, a commons that 
sustains the group by offering shared goods and services," continues Dr. 
"Dr. Fullilove's pioneering research reinforces the need for state and 
federal legislative reforms of eminent domain laws," said Steven Anderson, 
director of the Castle Coalition, which helps homeowners nationwide fight 
eminent domain abuse.  The Castle Coalition is a grassroots organization 
coordinated by the Institute for Justice, which litigated the Kelo eminent 
domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court in 2005.  Anderson said, "Property 
owners nationwide-particularly minorities, as evidenced by this paper-will 
remain vulnerable to seizures by tax-hungry governments for land-hungry 
developers until the use of eminent domain is reined in and limited to only 
true public uses."

A recent example of eminent domain targeting African American communities 
can be found in Riviera Beach, Fla.  Despite the state's new restrictions on 
eminent domain, city officials are pursuing a plan to remove thousands of 
mostly low-income, African American residents from their waterfront homes 
and businesses to make way for a luxury housing and yachting complex.  The 
Institute for Justice is representing property owners there who want to 
protect their rights and save what rightfully belongs to them.
In addition to her clinical and teaching duties, Dr. Fullilove is the author 
of Root Shock:  How Tearing Up City Neighborhoods Hurts America, and What We 
Can Do About It, which takes a powerful look at the effects of urban renewal 
on African Americans.  She coined the term "root shock" to describe the 
devastating effects of forced displacement. 

More information about the URBANTH-L mailing list