It all began more than a decade ago when two ambitious young African American men, blood brothers, did what the whites in their small Texas county said couldn’t be done—buy property and make a success out of a black owned and operated cattle operation. Their story is the thing that great movies are made of.
The ‘”Marshall Brothers’ Story” (we have changed the name to protect the subjects from reprisal) will make you shout, cry, and scream in outrage. This is an epic tale of jealous women, biracial marriage dynamics, opportunistic white land speculators, not to mention possible collusion, conflict of interest, racketeering, conspiracy and massive wrongdoing on the part of the courts, real estate agents, attorneys, Farm Service Administration officials and others.
It all began when Larry Marshall decided that he wanted his life to be different from that of his parents’. His parents eked out a living on sharecropped land. They lived in a shack on rented land and raised their children in the shadow of uncertainty, poverty and quasi-servitude. Harry Marshall decided at an early age that this life was not for him.
He is a hard worker, this young man. Even more important, he has long range goals, goals which his former wife has now derailed. Larry formulated his long term goals as a teenager. He was bound and determined to have a better life than the rest of the black folk in his small community. And, for nearly 10 years, he did.
He got a job with the state, saved, scrimped and did without, for years, until he had enough money for a down payment on a ranch. But, he didn’t just jump in without experience. He was much to smart for that.
Larry began his cattle operation on leased land, learning the ropes, fine tuning his animal husbandry and land management skills. Finally, after several years of leasing land, he was ready to take the biggest step he had ever taken in his life—he was ready to buy his own land and start his ranch. He was also going to make a lot of people very angry, and very jealous because he was about to step out of the prescribed mold for black men in the area and turn a mountain of stereotypes about black people and black men upside down. Larry Marshall was about to upset “the natural order of things.”
In their minds, “the natural order of things” is a world where blacks labor and rent, supervised by whites who work and own. According to a local activist, “they’re not bad people, but they just haven’t seen black people be successful (as they define it)”, in a world where they hold all of the cards and define the rules of the game.
The rules have been in favor of whites for so long that they accept the benefits of their advantages as easily as they breathe. On the flip side, while they easily accept their own advantages, they do not acknowledge the cumulative disadvantages that their black neighbors have faced for generations,
Not only do they disbelieve blacks are capable of successfully running a ranch, farm, or business, but, because they believe that African Americans are incapable, they see nothing wrong with “speeding up the process” of an at risk business. They also aren’t above taking advantage of family squabbles between blacks, if there is property involved.
In the case of this particular rancher, he is being “sister girlfriended” and scammed out of his dream by a wife who is listening to bad advice from her non-property owning “friends”, and by white realtors who are so bold, they have already listed the property for sale, even though, at the time of this writing, he had yet to sign a document to sell his land.
Well, it seems that a whole bunch of these folk–the folks in the county property office, courts, and possibly both attorneys, are either related, or are current or past business partners, or just know each other a bit too well. If the stench gets any worse, we’d probably be able to smell it all the way back here in Indiana, and in the Bluegrass State as well.
It is so ironic, that in the state where Juneteenth was first celebrated, black folk still aren’t free, free to own property, free to partake of all of the freedoms that this great nation offers. To top it all off, evidence points to a possible land theft plot separate from the divorce shenanigans.