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Heirs property research

by James Lennox, AARN Student researcher

For the past semester I have been working on independent research study on heirs property. Heirs’ property refers to instances when there is no clear title or deed. This research has been performed in collaboration with AARN and Reparations4Slavery. Reparations4Slavery is a group out of Denver, Colorado, that focuses on involving white people in the process of reparations. One of the ways they do this is through their online portal that chronicles the history of racism in America, as well as modern forms of institutionalized racism that continue to harm Black communities across the country. My research will be used to update their portal on Black land loss, with a specific focus on heirs’ property. In addition, AARN is creating a repository of oral histories to chronicle reparation efforts.

Image credit: Ranells, N. (Aug. 31, 2021). NC Cooperative Extension, Wills & Heirs Property: Protecting Black-Owned Land.

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Undersign the Redline @Barnard Symposium

On November 19th – 20th, Barnard College held a symposium, Undesign the Redline. Researchers, organizers, artists, and activists convened at the conference deconstructing the history of racially discriminatory zoning in American cities. Panelists discussed the intersections between residential segregation and education inequity, environmental racism, technology, and the roles that art and storytelling play in preserving and reclaiming the histories of redlined communities.

AARN opened the second day of the conference with Reparations: Remedy the Redline, a session devoted to examining the ways that local reparations efforts may begin to redress the harms experienced by segregated Black communities. Panelists included AARN Co-Founder Dr. Linda Mann and student researchers Claire Choi, Irene Jang, James Lennox, and Corey Shaw. Beginning with a discussion of the necessity of reparations under international human rights law and AARN’s model of repair, panelists then turned to two of AARN’s partnership projects as case studies: Brown Grove, Virginia, and Evanston, Illinois. 

In Brown Grove, AARN has provided legal and capacity-building support to local activists defending their community against industrialization and erasure. Presenters discussed the importance of oral history and multidisciplinary, community-centered advocacy in combating environmental racism.

Turning to AARN’s data-driven research, panelists then discussed the case of Evanston, Illinois, which made history this year as one of the first cities in the nation to implement local compensatory reparations legislation. In Evanston, AARN collaborated with former 5th Ward Alderwoman Robin Rue Simmons to conduct an impact study establishing the history of discriminatory housing policies implemented by the city and enduring harms to Black Evanston residents. Currently, AARN is in the process of conducting an economic calculation of the positive impacts of reparations on Black wealth accrual.


The presentation concluded with panelists sharing reflections about their work with AARN. To learn more about the Undesign the Redline symposium and exhibit, visit undesign.dhcbarnard.org.

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The Brown Grove Empowerment and Strategic Planning Retreat

This past weekend, AARN with support from the International Council for Transitional Justice hosted a two day retreat for the community of Brown Grove, Virginia. Starting on Saturday, November 6th, the community engaged in powerful reflection on their history and the work they have done thus far. As a collective, they centered their principles in their organizational structure. Among all else, they are driven by the pride they feel for their history and their desire to preserve what their ancestors fought to protect . 

On the final day, the Brown Grove Preservation Group defined their future—laying out their visions for all that is to come. Their ambitions for the future paired with the principles at the heart of their efforts attracted several local and state organizations looking to collaborate (VEJC, RASR, & many more). At the outset of the retreat, the community of Brown Grove is in a much better position to capitalize on the momentum they have already built.