The Fight for Land
You may have never had to think about land acquisition and retention. But what if you didn’t have the money to stay on your land because property taxes were rising because of adjacent properties? Or what if your decision to keep or sell your late grandmother’s home meant not only the loss of a house of memories but also access to your ancestral stomping grounds? What if your voice was ignored in the conversation about your own community’s future because of discriminatory, racially biased systems? Suddenly, you’re thinking about land a lot.
Use the tabs below to explore the unique places—and battles—in McIntosh.
Death by 1,000 cuts
In 2022, the Department of Natural Resources considered selling a portion of Butler Island, a property that is now owned by the people of Georgia and the site where more than 600 enslaved Africans once lived, for $1 to an entity that wanted to make the property a distillery. Thanks to the massive public outcry, the bill that would have enabled this sale failed to pass.
Only by having a holistic understanding of the history of places like Butler Island can we work toward an accurately-framed legacy and equitable future. We are actively partnering with the Coalition to Save Butler Island.
The relationship between Sapelo Island “descendants”—the descendants of West African enslaved peoples—and government entities operating on the island is long-lasting and complicated. Many descendants have worked (and still work) for the State of Georgia in some capacity and the public services on the island are facilitated by the county and state in tandem. The resident descendants of Sapelo have been self-sufficient in many ways—having their own library, a corner store, and, in the past, a school and midwifery services—but mainland county and state government entities remain important.
Hog Hummock Community: Standing with Sapelo
In March 2023, Rep. Buddy DeLoach (R-Townsend) introduced House Bill 273. HB 273 changes the composition of the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority (SIHA), created to hold land on Sapelo in the interest of preserving the island’s Gullah Geechee culture and environment.
Three NGOs on Sapelo – the Hog Hammock Community Foundation, Save Our Legacy Ourself (SOLO), and Sapelo Island Cultural And Revitalization Society, Inc. (SICARS), as well as a current member of SIHA, spoke out in opposition to the original bill and proposed amendments to protect Sapelo descendants from disenfranchisement. Many of you also spoke up, sending messages to our legislators and Governor on behalf of Sapelo.
In spite of valiant mobilization by these NGOs, community members, and partners, the bill failed to pass during the 2023 legislative session. Still, this short but intense battle remains a testament to the power of joining together for a common goal—and the fight to protect Sapelo and uphold descendants’ vision for their community remains alive!
Rezoning & Docks
When you live on an island, the water surrounding you is just as important as the land on which you stand. The tidal creeks, beaches, and marshes lining Sapelo Island are an integral part of the residents’ heritage, history, and present lived reality. They are the access points for fishing, crabbing, and seining—and anchor points for the stories passed down through generations.
There is currently a proposal by a private landowner on Sapelo Island to build a dock adjacent to the historic Hog Hummock community. If approved, this would set a precedent for more construction that would irrevocably alter the environmental and cultural landscape of Sapelo Island. An ecosystem—one that encompasses marsh grasses, wildlife, African American history, and the future of Sapelo’s people—hangs in the balance.
Land is more than earth. Land is a protector and container of heritage. It enables the accumulation of generational wealth. It can be a powerful tool of anti-racist empowerment—or unjust systemic disenfranchisement.
We are committed to working to ensure McIntosh’s rich historical, cultural, and natural wonders are honored in future planning decisions.
Partners & Organizations to know
McIntosh in the News
Savannah Morning News | 4/6/23
Atlanta Journal-Constitution | 3/24/23
Savannah Morning News | 3/24/23
The Darien News | 3/23/23
The Brunswick News | 3/18/23
The Brunswick News | 3/17/23
WTOC 11 | 3/15/23
GA Senate Committee | 3/15/23
Prism Reports | 3/13/23
WSAV | 2/24/23
Apple: Newsroom | 2/15/23
WTOC 11 | 1/12/23
Beacon Magazine | 2/9/21
Savannah Morning News | 6/18/20
Connect Savannah | 6/16/20
The Brunswick News | 6/10/20
“McIntosh County is one of our most important coastal treasures. OHM is committed to working with our partners to ensure its rich historical, cultural, and natural wonders are honored in future planning decisions.”
Please contact Megan Desrosiers, OHM President/CEO, to learn more about our work in McIntosh County.