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Sanford Undergraduate Olivia Reneau on Black Property Ownership Research in Wilmington, NC

This summer, Olivia Reneau, an undergraduate student at Sanford, analyzed historic black property ownership in Wilmington, North Carolina.
Her work has involved identifying Black (more often specified as ‘Mulatto’ by census takers) real property owners from the 1860 Census, identifying their property ownership with deeds, and documenting all transactions where these individuals chose to sell their property until approximately 1950.

While real estate transactions are common place in modern times, only a small portion of property owners were Black individuals prior to the U.S. census. Her research aims to determine the circumstances surrounding land-based transactions with free, Black grantors.

“My hope is that this work will inform our understanding of Black, real property ownership not only to better inform policies that aim to close the racial wealth gap (such as reparations), but to convey the complex and deeply emotional story of Black land acquisition and loss in the United States.”
— Olivia Reneau

Olivia Reneau is an undergraduate student at the Sanford School of Public Policy, PEP fellow, and a former Polis Director’s Fellow.