The Blackman Who Reads Aloud
Journey To Gaining Americans Of African Descent Gaining Economic Reparations
This Associated Press article was written by TODD LEWAN and DOLORES BARCLAY in 2006.
The Espy family in Vero Beach, Fla., lost its heritage in 1942 when the U.S. government seized its land through eminent domain to build an airfield. Government agencies frequently take land this way for public purposes under rules that require fair compensation for the owners.
In Vero Beach, however, the Navy appraised the Espys' 147 acres, which included a 30-acre fruit grove, two houses, and 40 house lots, at $8,000, according to court records. The Espys sued, and an all-white jury awarded them $13,000. That amounted to one-sixth of the price per acre that the Navy paid white neighbors for similar land with fewer improvements, records show.
After World War II, the Navy gave the airfield to the city of Vero Beach. Ignoring the Espys' plea to buy back their land, the city sold part of it, at $1,500 an acre, to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1965 as a spring training facility.
In 1999, the former Navy land, with parts of Dodgertown and a municipal airport, was assessed at $6.19 million. Sixty percent of that land once belonged to the Espys. The team sold its property to Indian River County for $10 million in August, according to Craig Callan, a Dodgers official.