Mississippi Center for Justice President and CEO Discusses Historic Heirs’ Property Project in Mobile Basin at Nation’s Leading Sustainability Conference for Business Leaders

February 12, 2024

Media Contact:
Aquita Brown, mcjcomms@mscenterforjustice.org, (601) 352-2269


PHOENIX, Ariz., – Vangela M. Wade, president and CEO of the Mississippi Center for Justice (MCJ), joined some of the nation’s leading nonprofit and business leaders at GreenBiz 24 to discuss an innovative corporate-community partnership spearheaded by MCJ and its partner, the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation (CHPP) across 49 Mississippi Counties, located in the Mobile Basin. In 2021, MCJ launched the Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property Support Initiative to help historically underserved families in Mississippi protect and keep their forestland, build generational wealth, and promote productive, sustainably managed forests.

“For the past two years, we have engaged with over 47,000 families and farmers through the Mobile Basin Heirs’ Property initiative, which is focused on protecting heirs properties and promoting sustainable use,” said Wade. “We are attempting to right historic and contemporary wrongs that affect the social, economic, and emotional well-being of families and communities who have suffered the painful loss of land through tax sales, court-ordered partition sales, or even a ‘taking’ of the land by adverse possession.”

According to recent research from the National Farm Family Coalition, Black farmers lost nearly 90% of the farmland they owned between 1910 and 1997 through “systemic” processes “underpinned by structural causes,” which include “the lack of legal protections for the collective landownership form known as heirs’ property.”

Dr. Jennie L Stephens, Chief Executive Officer of the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation™ in South Carolina, will also speak during the GreenBiz conference. The Mobile Basin initiative is based on a successful model developed by the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, which provides landowners with forestry education and access to additional funding for forest conservation and responsible forest management.

Through its Heirs’ Property work, MCJ provides a combination of legal services, information, and assistance in accessing financial resources to help resolve land title issues that disproportionately affect Black and Brown families and often lead to loss of land, wealth, and forest resources.

“Our heir’s property program is a foundational piece of our overall work to advance racial and economic justice for people in Mississippi,” said Wade. “We are excited about continuing this critical work in our state and sharing what we’ve learned with others across the country to ensure we reverse the disturbing trend of land dispossession from Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities.”


About the Mississippi Center for Justice
Mississippi Center for Justice is a nonprofit, public-interest law firm committed to advancing racial and economic justice. Supported and staffed by attorneys and other professionals, the Center develops and pursues strategies to combat discrimination and poverty statewide. Mississippi Center for Justice was organized to address the urgent need to re-establish in-state advocacy for low-income people and communities of color. Since its beginnings, the Center has advanced social and economic justice in Mississippi.