Segments in this Video

"Leave or Die" (02:05)


Between 1860 and 1920, hundreds of U.S. counties expelled African-American residents in a consistent pattern: a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman and lynched. Then the town's black residents were driven out in terror.

Racial Cleansing in America (02:53)

Reporter Elliot Jaspin has been investigating the banishment of blacks in the U.S. for several years. In many cases terrified blacks did not have time to sell their land. Forsyth County, Georgia drove out the largest number of blacks of any county.

Entering No Man's Land (03:01)

Forsyth County, Georgia is a growing suburb of Atlanta, yet it is virtually all white. When Dean Carter organized a march celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. and progress in race relations, the KKK and other organizations showed up in protest.

Repeating the Past (02:45)

Civil rights attorney Brian Spears looks at pictures of the Forsyth County race marches of 1987. In 1912, African American families were driven from the county through intimidation and violence. Descendants tell family stories.

Forsythe Biracial Committee 1987 (02:04)

When blacks were driven out of Forsyth County, they were forced to abandon their land. Civil rights attorney Brian Spears and others worked to bring compensation to families. The biracial committee provided its report to the governor.

Strickland Family Homestead (02:00)

In the case of banishment like that in Forsyth County, descendants and property can be found. This is a compelling reason to contemplate reparations. Who should be held responsible for land that was stolen, not sold?

African-American Banishment Cemeteries (02:52)

The Strickland family's burial ground in Forsyth is located on white-owned land. The land is covered in debris. The headstones are hard to identify. Throughout the U.S., sites like these are a reminder of what has been lost.

Strickland Original Homestead (02:37)

Cleaning the banishment cemetery inspired the family to look for the deeds to their ancestors' land. They find a record of sale from 1910, without the family name. This indicates that the land was taken and sold by someone other than the true owner.

Hearing for Adverse Possession (01:59)

Reporter Elliot Jaspin began researching Forsyth County. He discovered a story in the "Atlanta Constitution" that said people were driven out, but none lost their land. He went through every parcel of black-owned land to see what happened.

Legal or Moral Obligation (02:50)

Lawyer Phil Bettis handled all sales of land under adverse possession. He went on to become the head of the biracial commission representing Forsyth County. When questioned, Bettis blames descendants for not seeking rights to land sooner.

Denial of Racial Cleansing (01:40)

Lawyer Phil Bettis asks reporter Elliot Jaspin if he feels he should be responsible for reparations to black people as a taxpayer in Forsyth County. Bettis embodies the kinds of contradictions and problems the county faces.

Who is at Fault? (02:45)

The Strickland family visits land once owned by their ancestors. Loss of land is devastating for the African-American community because it cannot be recovered easily. Many have been forced to start over because of racial violence or discrimination.

Pierce City Refugees (02:17)

In St. Louis, two brothers whose relatives were banished from Pierce City, Missouri in 1901, try to come to terms with their family legacy. Newspaper editor Murray Bishoff told them the story of what happened to the African-Americans in the town.

Seeking Closure (03:03)

Charles Brown's ancestors owned a home in Pierce City before being driven out in 1901. Brown is on a mission to have his grandfather exhumed so his grave can be moved.

Lynching that Changed Southwest Missouri (02:22)

A trip to Pierce City to see Murray Bishoff reveals more about the expulsion of black citizens in 1901. The only evidence was the original newspaper article. The culture of the area evolved out of the eviction of African-Americans.

What Happened to the Colored People? (03:27)

Senior citizens of Pierce City share what they know about the eviction of African-Americans from the town. A former mayor of Pierce City describes the incident of 1901. She believes descendants of those who were driven out deserve an apology.

Searching for Compromise (02:30)

The former mayor of Pierce City discusses the situation with Charles Brown who wants to remove the remains of his great grandfather. His family was driven out of town along with all the other blacks in 1901.

Fighting for Closure (03:21)

James and Charles Brown meets with the Pierce City coroner to discuss exhuming their great grandfather. Because the grave is unmarked the coroner says there is a possibility it is the wrong grave.

Is Forgiveness Possible? (02:02)

James and Charles Brown visit the cemetery with the Pierce City coroner. He understands the brothers would not want to return to the city to visit the site because of the incident in 1901.

Recovering an Ancestor (03:07)

The Brown brothers watch as their great grandfather's body is exhumed in Pierce City.

Step Toward Closure (02:10)

The Brown brothers say a prayer at Hazelwood Cemetery in Springfield, Missouri where they are reburying their great grandfather. Charles Brown would like Pierce City to cover the expense of the exhumation.

Radical Proposal for Reparations (02:58)

The Mayor of Pierce City does not agree that the city should pay the cost of exhuming and reinterment of the Brown brothers' great grandfather. The coroner agrees with the mayor that there is no amount of money that can change what happened.

History of Racial Intimidation (01:39)

Money complicates the issue of reparations, making reconciliation harder to achieve. Harrison, Arkansas banished its black citizens twice. Because of its reputation as a place hostile to blacks, the town formed a task force on race relations.

Voluntary Prayer of Repentance (01:48)

Reporter George Holcomb wrote a series of articles on racism after a junior high football team from Fayetteville was subject to racism in Harrison. The head of the KKK spoke on TV claiming to speak for white citizens of Arkansas.

Assumptions About Harrison (02:51)

Black students in Harrison discuss their feelings about the scholarships they received from the town. The task force was formed because African Americans did not feel comfortable coming to the town.

Minorities not Welcome (02:54)

Thom Robb of the KKK says cross burning is really "cross lighting," citing a Scottish tradition. The Klan is an easy target for blame, but are they a cause or a symptom of the racism in Harrison? People freely admit they moved to Harrison because there were no black people.

Face of Harrison (01:58)

The Chamber of Commerce claims the community is different than it was in 1905. The Confederate flag hanging outside is intended to honor history, not offend black people.

Can Race Relations be Mended? (03:17)

People on the task force for racial relations are concerned about Harrison's image as a racist enclave. Author David Zimmerman shares maps showing land that used to be owned by African Americans.

Legacy of Expulsion of Black Citizens (01:49)

Permanent markers in the physical space are a critical part of reparations. Aunt Vine was the last black person to live in Harrison. She has a scholarship in her name but no visible grave marker.

Delayed Healing Process (03:16)

The mayor of Pierce City put an article in the newspaper rather than respond personally to Charles Brown. Brown paid the city coroner who exhumed his great grandfather's body.

Victimized Black Land Owners (03:23)

The family has yet to decide if they will pursue legal reparations for the land that was stolen when their ancestors were driven out of Forsyth County. Legally, the time has run out for anyone to come forward to claim land lost to banishment.

Search for Reparations (01:56)

In 1988 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill granting reparations to Japanese Americans interned during World War II. Michigan Congressman John Conyers has unsuccessfully introduced a bill to provide reparations for slavery.

Credits: Banished (00:56)

Credits: Banished

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Between 1860 and 1920, hundreds of U.S. counties expelled their African-American residents. The pattern was horrifically similar in almost all cases: a black man was accused of assaulting a white woman, was lynched, and then white rioters attacked black neighborhoods with guns and firebombs. After blacks fled for their lives, whites illegally assumed ownership of the abandoned property. This program places these events in the context of present-day race relations by visiting towns in Georgia, Missouri, and Arkansas where banishments took place. As black and white citizens warily explore the idea of reparations and reconciliation, the film reveals that even one hundred years later these communities tend to uphold the legacy of racial segregation. (84 minutes)

Length: 84 minutes

Item#: BVL49768

Copyright date: ©2007

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

Organization of American Historian’s Erik Barnouw Award     


Award of Commendation from the Society for Visual Anthropology    


Henry Hampton Award for Excellence in Film & Digital


“Adds a compelling and necessary chapter to the literature of racism in this country.”  Hollywood Reporter     


“Remarkable! This crucially important documentary raises some difficult questions about what can be done in the present to make up for the crimes of the past.”                


“A wrenching investigation of racism, resentment, and reparations.”  Village Voice     


“From the first minutes, viewers know that they are in the hands of a master storyteller....has great anthropological value.”  —Society for Visual Anthropology

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