Mitchell Reels, their grandfather who owned the land, did not leave a will but instead left the property to the pair as heirs’ property, a customary practice in the South.
According to Essence, the Robinson family was unaware that they even owned the land until they were notified of a lawsuit filed by James E. Deshler after he had purchased 1/15 of the family’s land. Like the Reels brothers, Michael Robinson’s grandfather, Joe Ely, had ceded the land to his heirs shortly before he passed away.
According to Morgan State University’s Director of the Institute for Urban Research, Ray Winbush, the desire for these tracts of land owned by Black people, particularly Black men, was a motivating factor in lynchings.
David Cecelski, a historian of the North Carolina coastal area, also told ProPublica that there was a history of legal loopholes and tricks deployed against Black people in that area, saying, “You can’t talk to an African-American family who owned land in those counties and not find a story where they feel like the land was taken from them against their will, through legal trickery.”
“To me, it had even more meaning that people were enslaved on that land, and now we owned it, and we had the opportunity to change the narrative, the legacy, and the history on that land,” Robinson said.
“But it was so important for me to honor his legacy and the intent when he purchased that land. He could only dream or imagine where we are as people of color today. And I wanted to take the blood, sweat, and tears into that land and not let that die.”
RELATED CONTENT: LA County Officially Returns Ownership of Bruce Beach Resort To Heirs of Black Family
Source: Black Enterprise