Please print this letter and fax or mail to President Bush immediately. The unjust treatment of African-American farmers by the US Department of Agriculture has got to stop!
President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing to express my concern about a case of racial harassment and discrimination facing the family of one of our prominent black national leaders. Recently U.S. Marshals delivered a Writ of Execution regarding foreclosure proceedings to Gary Grant and the other heirs of Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant in the New Deal Resettlement Community of Tillery, NC. While never denying their responsibilities for any and all debts that they incurred, the Grants have proven that they were racially discriminated against by local USDA offices. This family's Civil Rights complaints against the USDA and its former agency Farmers Home Administration (FmHA) have been proven time and time again. According to what I have discovered, even this Writ is the result of discriminatory practices by the USDA and its agent(s) on loans made to the Grants. The effect of this discrimination is that the family has accrued additional debt on loans made over 20 years ago. That this family has led Blacks in North Carolina and their community and refused to accept second-class treatment has effectively made them a target of the local agricultural power structure. In numerous ways they have not received the same consideration nor flexible assistance offered their white counterparts in the county.
As you are aware, farming is an inherently risky and capital intensive enterprise. The bulk of the debt in question for the Grants was acquired during the early 1970s and persisted due to a series of “declared disastrous” years. By aggressively pursuing the family’s debt, the local agricultural structure hoped to send a clear message to the other Blacks in the community that “they should stay in their place.” Similar small debts were easily dealt with among white farmers in the county. Mr. Grant, who was a successful farmer when he came to the former FmHA at USDA for loans, was placed on supervised loans; made loans at higher interest rates than white farmers all around him; and he, like other Black farmers, received his loans late. That this family has been in a struggle with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for more than 20 years over such a relatively small sum, is a signal that something has gone awry in the process for citizens to settle Civil Rights Complaints with the department.
I further understand that USDA, in 1996, failed to live up to a Final Judgment that covered four years of USDA discrimination against Mr. and Mrs. Grant. This is especially troubling because the document was signed by all parties, including the USDA’s Office of Civil Rights. Perhaps if this document had been executed as agreed, the Grant children would not be facing the current Writ of Execution. The USDA reneged on this document of trust just as it has with many such signed agreements involving others. Such an obvious disregard for the well-being of potentially successful small family farmers is shameful for the government offices President Lincoln originally called “the people's department.”
I did not get to know the late Mr. & Mrs. Grant, but I do know their heirs. I know that this family is a family of leaders. They are hard working, tax paying citizens who love justice and equality. Sadly, representatives of our government have dragged them through this torture and hardship because they refused to accept second-class treatment and worked to make their community a better place. In addition to being the first Black president of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative, the first Black on the North Carolina Rural Electric Cooperative Board, Superintendent of his church’s Sunday School and a church trustee, he was also an entrepreneur and served as a past-President of the Lower Halifax County NAACP. Like all of the previous NAACP leaders from the Tillery Resettlement Farms Community, Matthew Grant had his land and livelihood threatened. Although deceased, he is the only past president to still have his land, though it is under attack.
Mr. President, you have the power and influence to end this family’s struggle against racism and bigotry. You can cause these actions and any other action against this family to cease and desist. You, as the President of the United States, have the opportunity and duty to rectify the mistakes and/or oversights made by departments under your direct control and other branches of government, such as the Department of Justice (DOJ). So you are now being asked, at a time when the 2007 Farm Bill is in “Committee” - which might provide a modest sum of money for the cause of the “Socially Disadvantage” farmer - to use your power in these matters related to the Matthew and Florenza Moore Grant Family and send a clear and present signal to the DOJ, USDA and its agent FSA that you will not tolerate the mistreatment of our citizens. Your immediate attention to this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Friends of the Grant Family