College of Georgia consultants estimate that black residents displaced to make room for dormitories ought to obtain  million in reparations

A new report shows black residents who were evicted from their homes in Georgia to get student housing in the 1960s are entitled to more than $5 million.

According to a University of Georgia economic analysis released last week, former Linnentown residents suffered a financial hit when they were evicted in the 1960s and paid almost nothing for their homes in the Athens-Clarke County area.

Geneva Johnson Eberhart said her family received $20,000 for their home and land today after Athens demolished their family home to build dormitories. (YouTube/Online Athens)

However, the estimate doesn’t take into account education or job loss, or the emotional trauma residents endured when forced to move.

“I think it’s important to note right away that our research is not intended to cover all forms of loss,” said UGA Professor Jerry Shannon called.

Linnentown was a tight-knit, self-sustaining black community before the University of Georgia and the City of Athens used a significant area decades ago to demolish the homes and replace them with two high-rise dormitories and a parking deck.

Former resident Bobby Crook said his home was equipped with a chicken coop, pigsty and smokehouse, and had a fish pond in the yard. He said everyone would help take care of and help each other out, from doing the electrical work to plumbing to seeding.

Athens used an eminent domain — which allows the government to confiscate private property in cases where homeowners receive financial compensation — to take over the neighborhood properties when Cook was 11. It is now UGA’s Brumby Hall.

“Everyone was crying and upset. “The university takes over our house. We have to move,’ they said,” Cook said.

The full extent of the economic and psychological damage can never be estimated. UGA officials and Athens-Clarke County must split the repayment for the undervalued homes.

The researchers compared how much homeowners received in the 1960s to the market values ​​of the houses today. They also compared compensation for the homes in Linnentown to home values ​​in neighboring white communities and how moving to areas of lower esteem affected former residents.

The story goes on

Geneva Johnson Eberhart told the Athens Banner-Herald that her family received $20,000 for their home and property today. They moved to East Athens after their home was destroyed. Her father bought a specialized shell house, but some families had to move to council housing.

“Everyone raised us. It was a village,” said Eberhart. “They got rid of everything, but they didn’t get rid of everything in our hearts.”

The government has the power to acquire private property for public use as long as the owners receive compensation. In the early 1960s, Athens made the need for a federal urban renewal program the reason for the black family uprising.

They paid families hundreds of thousands less than what the properties are worth today and charged them about $144 a month in today’s money if they stayed past the move-out period. Some of the houses were burned down for fire drills and others were demolished.

The Federal Housing Act of 1949 empowers governments to remediate “contaminated” areas under the program.

The University Redevelopment urban renewal project “would clear all of the slum area that now exists on Baxter Street,” wrote UGA President OC Aderhold in 1961 to US Senator Richard B. Russell of Georgia.

After lobbying from residents and advocates, the unitary government of Athens-Clarke County officials signed a resolution in February 2021 to redeem the urban renewal plan and compensate former residents and their descendants. As part of the resolution, Athens set up a body called the Athens Justice and Memory Project to find solutions.

Georgian law currently prohibits any state agency from giving public money to private individuals. The resident-led panel has discussed applying for the funds for affordable housing and other projects.