Nineteen African American families bought a 97-acre tract of land and plan to use it to create a city that will serve as a ‘safe space.’
Amidst the unrest that took hold of the country this year—the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery, and other extrajudicial homicides and subsequent protests—real estate agent Ashley Scott and her entrepreneur friend Renee Walters were prompted to search for a new community, one they could start themselves.
“We both have Black husbands,” said Walters. “We both have Black sons. And I was starting to get overwhelmed and have a sense of anxiety when my husband would leave the house to go to work.”
A town for sale? Really?
A website called Toomsboroforsale.com was run by Tim Bumgardner, a developer who owned more than 30 properties around the town of Toomsboro, GA. It was one of the few places where you could buy “a whole town with every kind of building including a historic inn, a syrup mill, an opera house, a schoolhouse, a railroad depot, a cotton warehouse, a restaurant, a barbershop, a water wheel, a grist mill, a workshop, a filling station, and several houses,” the ad read.
“Once I saw the post of a town being for sale, I was like, ‘Oh, this is perfect! OK, what can we do?’” said Walters.
But while the ad publicizing the sale of Toomboro had gone viral online, it turned out that the town itself wasn’t actually for sale—only the numerous properties Bumgardner owned. Mayor Joyce Denson made that clear in public statements.
But Scott and Walters weren’t deterred. Instead, Scott put on her real estate hat and looked for land in the same area.
She found a 97-acre tract of land for sale outside Toomsboro, just East of Macon in unincorporated Wilkinson County, Georgia.
A group of 19 African American families bought the 97 acres and plan to use it to create a city that will serve as a “safe space” for Black families. By the end of their development plan, they hope to have a fully operational, self-sufficient city—putting Freedom, Georgia, on the map.
History of Black cooperatives
The combining of resources to create a collective or cooperative economics is not new, especially when it comes to African Americans in the United States. In North Carolina the Texana Community of Murphy was founded by a Black woman named Texana McClelland, who moved with her family to the area around the 1850s. One of the first things that residents accomplished after settling in Texana was the construction of a community church. The First Baptist Church in Texana was built of logs hewn by the women who had moved into the settlement.
In 1881, the community tore down the old church and built Mt. Zion Baptist Church, which is still the community’s church today. Most Texana residents still live along Texana Road, on the same mountain hillside where Texana McClelland first built her home.
Soul City, developed by attorney Floyd McKessick, an Asheville native, was founded in Warren County, NC. That’s where Rep. Eva Clayton lived and worked before being appointed to a state position in community development, and later being elected to the United States Congress.
Freedom Georgia is an innovative model for self-sufficiency, environmental sustainability, and cooperative economics among BIPOC communities across the African Diaspora globally. Learn more at TheFreedomGeorgiaInitiative.com and www.facebook.com/FreedomGA2020.