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Throughout history, many people fought for land. For example, Apache leader Geronimo battled the U.S. and Mexico from staking claim to the land back in the 1800s. And Nelson Mandela fought to protect South Africa from the apartheid that was destroying it. Not much has changed since then, and in a new documentary, yet another Black family fights for land they’ve owned since slavery times.

Inside Silver Dollar Road: Black Family’s Fight To Keep Land

Silver Dollar Road is the newest documentary by Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. The film follows the Reels, a North Carolina family on a mission to recover the land that they say could be stolen from them.

The family has had legal rights to the 65-acre parcel of land that sits along Silver Dollar Road since enslaved Black people gained liberation during emancipation. The Reels not only resided, but lived off the land for multiple generations, making it a significant piece of history.

But when a developer sets his sights on the property, the family is forced to fight for what is rightfully theirs.

Black Family Fights For Historic Land

Silver Dollar Road takes a deep dive into the unrelenting battle that so many Black Americans have to endure against developers fighting to steal their land.

And according to a ProPublica article covering the story, the Reels family is no different. In 2011, brothers Melvin Davis and Licurtis Reels stood their ground in court after refusing to vacate their property.

Their great-grandfather Mitchell Reels purchased the land a whole century prior, a generation after emancipation. And the pair — with their other relatives — lived on the land their entire lives and even made a living off of it.

Because he didn’t trust the courts with the land, their great-grandfather didn’t leave a will. Instead, he left it to his heirs, a practice similar to inheriting shares of a company, where multiple heirs hold interest in the land.

“The practice began during Reconstruction when many African Americans didn’t have access to the legal system, and it continued through the Jim Crow era when Black communities were suspicious of white Southern courts,” the ProPublica article states.

One hundred years later, the brothers would stand in court to defend the property that their ancestors worked hard to keep. But instead of hearing their case, the judge ordered them to spend eight years in jail.

Raoul Peck’s Silver Dollar Road highlights the struggles of Black Americans in reclaiming their land. It also shows just how far many will go to keep it.

Who is Raoul Peck?

Raoul Peck is a Haitian filmmaker who knows how to stir the pot — and for good reason. The heavy-hitting filmmaker is known to create powerful films that tackle the most pressing issues in our society, from racism to immigration.

black family fights for land
CANNES, FRANCE – MAY 16: Jury member and director Raoul Peck attends the Jury Photocall during the 65th Annual Cannes Film Festival at the Palais des Festivals on May 16, 2012 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Dominique Charriau/WireImage)

His film I Am Not Your Negro, quickly garnered critical acclaim and was even nominated for an Oscar in 2017.

But aside from his filmmaking talents, Peck also acted as Minister of Culture for Haiti, where he would help guide its cultural programs and initiatives.

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