A group of 19 African American families bought a 97-acre tract of land in rural Georgia which they plan to use to create a city that will serve as a ‘safe space’ for black families.
The planned black cooperative town, which will be known as Freedom, is slated to be built on land that sits just east of Macon, Georgia in Wilkinson County.
‘I’m hoping that it will be a thriving safe haven for people of color, for black families in particular,’ real estate agent Ashley Scott told CNN.
‘Being able to create a community that is thriving, that is safe, that has agriculture and commercial businesses that are supporting one another and that dollars circulating in our community, that is our vision.’
The idea of creating a black cooperative on an unincorporated piece of land about 120 miles southeast of Atlanta was the brainchild of Scott and her friend, Renee Walters, an investor and entrepreneur.
A group of 19 black families purchased 97 acres of land in Wilkinson County, Georgia, which they plan to turn into a black-founded city called Freedom
The planned black cooperative town will serve as a ‘safe haven’ for African Americans, according to the leaders of the project
Renee Walters, an investor and entrepreneur, is one of the two women leading the Freedom Georgia Initiative
The land is located in an unincorporated part of Wilkinson County, Georgia, some 120 miles southeast of Atlanta
The two women were moved by the unrest that was triggered by the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
After the February 23 fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery came to light, Scott and Walters felt the need to search for a new community that they could start on their own.
‘Watching our people protesting in the streets, while it is important, and I want people to stay out in the streets, bringing attention to the injustices of black people,’ Scott said.
‘We needed to create a space and a place where we could be a village, again, a tribe, again.’
‘We wanted to create this safe space where we can address our own issues and concerns.’
Scott and Walters began to gauge interest among their friends and relatives in joining the effort to start a black city.
‘We both have black husbands. We both have black sons,’ Walters said.
‘And I was starting to get overwhelmed and have a sense of anxiety when my husband will leave the house to go to work.
‘So, it was like, OK, what can we do?
‘And once I saw the post of Toomsboro going viral, about a town being on sale, I was like, “Oh, this is perfect”.’
Walters (left) and her friend, Ashley Scott (right), came up with the idea amid the racial turmoil gripping the nation following the police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery
Scott and Walters created the Freedom Georgia Initiative, a plan to buy a large tract of land that would then be incorporated into a new black city – Freedom, Georgia.
Walters saw an ad offering the sale of the entire town of Toomsboro – with its 30 properties – for $1.7million. That’s when she phoned Scott.
‘She said, “Ashley, did you see the article about Toomsboro for sale? For the price of a small condo, we could buy a whole town for $1.7 million”,’ Scott said.
‘It is one of the few places where you can buy a whole town with every kind of building including a historic inn, a syrup mill, an opera house, a school house, a railroad depot, a cotton warehouse, a restaurant, a barbershop, a water wheel, a grist mill, a work shop, a filling station, and several houses,’ the ad read.
But upon closer investigation, it became apparent that the town was not for sale.
So Scott used her skills in real estate to look for land in the area. That’s when she found an empty plot just outside Toomsboro in unincorporated Wilkinson County.
‘It was just such a beautiful piece of land. It was affordable, and it just made sense that we could create something that would be amazing for our families,’ said Scott.
Historians note that there is precedent for the creation of all-black cities.
In 1899, African Americans founded Hobson City, Alabama, after they were kicked out of neighboring towns.
Former slaves who were freed after the Civil War founded Mound Bayou in the Mississippi Delta.
After completing the purchase of the land in August, Scott and Walters plan to develop the land in stages.
Initially, there are plans to clear the land, farm it, and create a man-made lake for sustainable fishing.
The work is necessary before submitting a request for a city charter.
By law in Georgia, a new city must be at least one square mile in size and have a population of 200 people per square mile.
The goal is to expand the initiative to 200 families, which would make it easier to one day obtain a city charter
At least 60 per cent of the area must be used for residential, industrial, commercial, or government purposes.
The Georgia General Assembly would then need to approve a city charter. Within the first two years of the charter’s approval, the new city would have to provide at least three municipal services for residents.
As of now, the acreage of a square mile is 640 acres, so the new town would need to expand and acquire 520 more acres of land to meet the requirements set out by state law.
Scott told WGXA-TV that 19 families is just not enough.
The goal is to eventually expand to 200 families. The initiative’s founders say they are not interested in restricting the town to just African Americans.
‘We want especially our black families to come to be pioneers with us,’ says Scott.
‘At the end of the day we aren’t about doing reverse racism or reverse redlining,’ says Scott.
‘We just want to have a space, a place where black people and pro-black people can live and breath without the injustices we are facing in our current cities and societies.’
Building a new city can take decades, but the planners are hoping to work on an accelerated pace.
‘We thought it would be a five to ten-year process, but with the outpouring of support that we’ve gotten we can make this happen much faster,’ she says.
‘As soon as we can acquire the land, the people, the bodies we are going to be pushing this.’