25 Aug 2020
Professor Jessica Shoemaker’s article, Fee Simple Failures: Rural Landscapes and Race, has been accepted by the Michigan Law Review.
The article analyzes who owns rural America, and why. It analyzes myriad historic instances of explicit race-based exclusion in property and fundamentally critiques property law’s ongoing role in keeping American agricultural land ownership almost exclusively—98 percent—white.
This project comes at a time of a great national attention to the need for racial justice and while frightening coronavirus clusters emerge in racialized ways, including in the industrialized meat-packing plants of rural America and the crowded farm fields of concentrated modern food production. It also comes at a moment of tremendous opportunity and urgency. Experts expect in the next decade nearly half of U.S. farmlands will change hands.
Ultimately, this article argues that fundamental property law choices can either continue to facilitate these land transactions in a way that reproduces and re-entrenches the converged challenges of racial injustice, agricultural industrialization, and rural depopulation, or it can help pave a new way.
This article brings together property theory and the work of rural sociologists and farm advocates for the first time to argue for bold experimentation and reconsideration of some of our most fundamental land-tenure institutions.