Ala. House OKs Black Land Loss Panel

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — The Alabama House has voted to set up a panel to study whether the state has illegally taken land from some black residents.

The resolution was introduced by Rep. Thomas Jackson, D-Thomasville, who said he became concerned following a series of stories last year by The Associated Press documenting black land losses across the South.

The resolution passed the House on a voice vote Thursday and now goes to the Senate.

One of the AP stories was about Willie Williams of Sweet Water.

The Williams family lost a pair of 40-acre plots to the state in a 1964 court case. The state had claimed the property didn't belong to the family because of a 1906 federal designation as swampland.

The AP reported that the family held an 1874 deed and had records dating from the 1950s to show they had been paying taxes on the land for generations. A judge called the state's claim a ``severe injustice,'' but the land went to the state.

Jackson said he has talked to Williams and with two other Marengo County residents, who said their family land was also taken by the state.

``If it was wrongfully taken, we feel the state ought to restore the land to its proper owner,'' Jackson said.

If approved by the Senate, the 10-member African-American Land Loss Task Force would study the issue and report to the Legislature in 2003.

One member would be appointed by the governor, three by legislative leaders, three by the Legislative Black Caucus and one each by the presidents of Alabama State University, Alabama A&M University and Tuskegee University.

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