Twin sisters buy former plantation to preserve and protect Black history

May 15, 2024
Good Morning America / ABC News

...The Banner twins are the founders of The Descendants Project, a nonprofit that fights for historic and cultural preservation for descendants of enslaved people. It was through their nonprofit that they bought Woodland Plantation, the birthplace of the 1811 slave revolt.

During that revolt, hundreds of enslaved plantation workers, inspired by the Haitian Revolution, took up arms and marched toward New Orleans, hoping to seize the city, free other slaves and establish a free state. The uprising was quelled by U.S. troops and local militia, leaving nearly 100 enslaved people dead. Scores more were captured and executed, while others were returned to their plantations, where some were punished.

Jo and Joy Banner said they never really learned about the revolt in school. It was their grandmother's oral history, they said, that taught them about the revolt and the enslaved people in the area who escaped from plantations to join the Union Army...

In 2021, the Banner sisters filed a lawsuit through the Descendants Project against the parish with the goal of rendering a rezoning ordinance from 1990, which changed residential lands to industrial sites, null and void. The rezoning ordinance would have allowed a large area of land in Wallace to be used for industrial purposes, including Greenfield's proposed grain terminal. Greenfield later joined the parish as a defendant in the case, seeking to uphold the industrial zoning ordinance.

The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented the Descendants Project in the case, said in a press release at the time that the 1990 rezoning ordinance had been illegally pushed through without proper approvals. Attorneys also argued that subsequent facilities built on the rezoned land, such as the Greenfield facility, would harm the surrounding community.

"If built, the grain terminal would follow a common pattern in which hazardous industrial facilities are placed in or near Black communities, a practice central to environmental racism. People who live in areas with toxic air pollution suffer higher rates of cancer and other diseases, and these people are disproportionately Black," the center stated...

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Last modified 

May 15, 2024