A Black Alabama Family Claims Their Land and Well Were Stolen by City Officials
A family in Huntsville, AL claim that, decades ago, the city systematically stole the land their family once owned.
According News 19, about 10 acres sat along Athens Pike, which is now known as Holmes Avenue. The five surviving Jones siblings say that land had been in the family since the 1870s. Today, that piece of land is home to the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s business administration building.
“During the time that we were living on the land, we weren’t rich but we had everything that we needed in life,” said J.T. Jones to News 19. “Local Governments condemned the well that we had on the land, saying that it wasn’t fit for human consumption.”
“We had it and then we didn’t have it and that is very painful to me,” added Brenda Jones.
Kamala Miller-Lester, a researcher for Where is My Land, an organization that helps families reclaim stolen land, has been working with the Jones family.
According to News 19, officials in Madison County condemned the land in 1954 after Willie Jones turned down an offer of only $900 dollars for a portion of that land, including the well, and the family was forced to move.
“Their father was actually offered money to purchase the small parcel where the well was however, that well was the only water source for their home and it had been in the family for almost a century,” Lester said to News 19. “And he turned down that offer. The well was condemned around 1958. All of a sudden there was a pump house built in the same location. The city had traced a clean water source to the area near the well. Rather than get permission to dig under the wall to tap into that source, they instead condemned the entire property and forced the family to move off of it,” Lester said.
Waff 48 reported that 1954 court documents show that Huntsville was not able to take over the property and well. A court hearing claimed that several people were present, including their father, Willie Jones, and no one objected to the condemnation process, Waff 48 reported.
As part of the investigation, UAH handed the Jones family attorneys some documents to show that members of Jones’ family signed the deed over to W.L. Sanderson, chief of the Huntsville Land Acquisition Office, in 1958.
“Their father unfortunately was not literate,” Lester said to News 19. “Before this transaction, he had signed his name with an ‘X’ and we also have evidence of that.”
The Jones family started a petition to get their land back. It has more than 5,000 signatures.