Her Family Owned Slaves. How Can She Make Amends?

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tags: slavery, Georgia, reparations

Just before people started to take the pandemic seriously, Stacie Marshall slipped into the back of a conference room in Athens, Ga., and joined two dozen Black farmers in a marketing seminar called “Collards Aren’t the New Kale.”

She stood out, and not just because she was one of only two white people in the room. Ms. Marshall, 41, still had the long blond hair and good looks that won her the Miss Chattooga County title in 1998. The win came with scholarship money that got her to a tiny Baptist college and a life away from the small Appalachian valley where her family has farmed for more than 200 years.

Leading the seminar was Matthew Raiford, 53, a tall, magnetic Gullah Geechee chef and organic farmer who works the coastal Georgia land his forebears secured a decade after they were emancipated from slavery.

He asked if there were questions. Ms. Marshall raised her hand, ignored the knot in her stomach and told her story: She was in line to inherit 300 acres, which would make her the first woman in her family to own a farm. She had big plans for the fading commercial cattle operation and its overgrown fields. She would call it Mountain Mama Farms, and sell enough grass-fed beef and handmade products like goat’s milk soap to help support her husband and their three daughters.

But she had discovered a terrible thing.

“My family owned seven people,” Ms. Marshall said. She wanted to know how to make it right.

Mr. Raiford was as surprised as anyone in the room. “Those older guys have probably never heard that from a white lady in their entire lives,” he recalled.

For almost three years now, with the fervor of the newly converted, Ms. Marshall has been on a quest that from the outside may seem quixotic and even naïve. She is diving into her family’s past and trying to chip away at racism in the Deep South, where every white family with roots here benefited from slavery and almost every Black family had enslaved ancestors.

“I don’t have a lot of money, but I have property,” she said during a walk on her farm last winter. “How am I going to use that for the greater good, and not in like a paying-penance sort of way but in an it’s-just-the-right-thing-to-do kind of way?”

Read entire article at New York Times

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