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You know how, when someone is talking about something they really love, their passion comes through in their voice? How you can see in their eyes, their gestures, how important this thing is to them?

That’s what it’s like to talk to Eddie Slaughter about farming.

Eddie Slaughter: You know, it’s something about if you take a bottom plow—and this ground has probably not been touched for years—and you go out there and you make a couple of rounds, and you go about 18 inches deep and you turn that soil over… There is a natural smell of the earth that come from it that I can’t explain.

Mr. Slaughter’s in his seventies. He’s been farming for decades… it’s his life’s work, what he loves to do.

Eddie Slaughter: But man, it is a, pristine, it’s a healthy, it’s a good, y’know it look like it’s saying, ‘Hey, this is fertile soil. This is vibrant soil.’ It just is something about that smell that really [laughs] I guess you have to be country to understand it or to feel it, you know. I can’t really explain it. But you prepare yourself and that smell tell me you are getting prepared to make a beautiful crop, a good crop.

Farming and ranching… any agricultural business… is fundamentally about LAND. You need it, whether you’re growing crops or raising animals.

Eddie Slaughter: All of us knew that we loved the land. We also knew the value of the land. You know, at one time you couldn’t even vote in this country unless you was a landowner, so we was very mindful about not giving it up. That’s the reason why here from 1999 to now, we still been fighting these folks. Because it’s all about the land. It ain’t been about nothing else but the land. 

But land, it’s a finite resource, and good agricultural land is often expensive.

For many small farmers there’s only one option when it comes to buying in: the United States Department of Agriculture. 

That’s where Mr. Slaughter went when he was getting started. And like many other Black farmers and ranchers, Mr. Slaughter says he’s pretty much been battling the USDA ever since.

But his fight? It went all the way to federal court.


My name is April Simpson and from the Center for Public Integrity, this is the Heist.

In this episode, we’re trading Nate’s ranch in Oklahoma for Mr. Slaughter’s farm in Georgia, ‘cause there’s a story I want to share about when a bunch of Black farmers and ranchers took the USDA to court. 

When I first heard Mr. Slaughter talk at a press conference in 2021, I found his story so moving that it got me reporting deeper about discrimination at the USDA.

Mr. Slaughter’s story helped me understand how the odds are stacked against Black farmers and ranchers. And how losing land means losing your job and your purpose, and, often, your home.

For many Black farmers and ranchers land is also about freedom, political influence, and legacy. 

[BREAK 3:45-3:49] 

Long before he had his own farm, Mr. Slaughter was just a kid who loved the country.

Eddie Slaughter: My name is Eddie Slaughter. I was born here in Buena Vista, Georgia, but at the age of four or five we moved to Miami, Florida and I was like a fish outta water. I was country when country wasn’t cool.

Every summer when school let out, Mr. Slaughter would go back to Buena Vista for his summer break. Eventually, in his early thirties, he moved back for good.

He wanted to be a farmer. But there’s a difference between loving the land and knowing how to work it. 

Mr. Slaughter says he didn’t know anything. 

But his uncle and cousin showed him the ropes. They taught him the big stuff like what to plant and when to harvest, and the little things, like how deep to plant his seeds.

Eddie Slaughter: I think the first crop I planted was purple hull peas. And man, it was beautiful. It was great. And over the years, you know, from peanuts to soy beans to cotton, I love all of it. When you finally get stuff up and it’s growing and you finally are able to harvest it and eat it, you become full circle. And I wanted to learn so much more about it. And then I finally realized that it was more to it than that. There was more to it than just enjoying it. You know, that this is a business, uh, this is how you make a living at it. This is how you make a profit out of it. 

The first loan Mr. Slaughter says that he got from the USDA was for buying land. But he says he paid for his inputs—equipment, seeds, and fertilizer—with his own money from his off farm job, at Procter and Gamble. 

The first time he planted peanuts, he says that he invested about four thousand dollars into his crop.

Eddie Slaughter: When I finally harvested, took it to the mill, I was able to pay off everybody, everything. And still had about $3,000 left. I could turn flips, I was like ‘Hey, this, I can, this, this will work.’

But he wasn’t turning flips for long. Mr. Slaughter says that the USDA told him that in order to satisfy the terms of his initial farm ownership loan, at least fifty-one percent of his income had to come from farming, not his off-farm job.

According to Mr. Slaughter, if the majority of his income came from Procter and Gamble, the USDA would not consider him a farmer, and he’d need to go elsewhere to get additional money to farm. 

However, since he couldn’t get credit from another bank, well… Mr Slaughter had to stick with it and try to figure out how to meet the USDA guidelines… and how to make more money from farming…how to make it fifty-one percent of his income.

He says that meant buying a bigger tractor, more planters, more seeds to reach that threshold.

Eddie Slaughter: And I thought about it, I said, ‘Well, I can use irrigation. I could get me a small herd of cattle,’ you know, ‘plant me a hay field over in here’ and you know, I can still see how I’m gonna make money to get that fifty-one percent off of the farm. 

It was more than he could afford on his own. To get to that fifty-one percent, Mr Slaughter actually needed to borrow more money. 

So he went back to the USDA to get another loan.

Eddie Slaughter: Bought all this, you know, equipment and everything, I guess it was about $265,000 worth of equipment, you know, to get everything going. And then, now you got this whole different ball game. 


That was the worst mistake I made because when you get into it with them, you fight them forever. 


In the late 80s, a flood hit Mr. Slaughter’s farm.

And the USDA sent him a four thousand dollar check as a disaster subsidy payment. Mr. Slaughter says he took the check and invested it in more equipment. 

But come to find out, the check that he received—with his name on it—was never meant to be cashed by him. He says that he later found out he was only supposed to sign it, and give it to the Farm Service Agency as a loan payment. So when the USDA came knocking for the four thousand dollars, Mr. Slaughter had already spent it. 

Eddie Slaughter: And they said, ‘Well, Mr. Slaughter, you know, here’s the thing. You should have read this. You should have understood this.’ When they deliberately sent that check to me, that was by design. 

Mr. Slaughter says the check didn’t need to be sent directly to him. Instead, he says the agency could have had him show up in person to sign it, or the check could’ve gone DIRECTLY to the FSA so that it could have been applied to his next loan payment. He says that when he cashed the check, the agency threatened him with foreclosure.

Mr. Slaughter thinks he was targeted by the agency that sent the check. 

Eddie Slaughter: And friends of mine come and say, ‘Man, they do this to everybody.’ They said, ‘Man, if you had came to us, we could have told you that. You know, this the same stuff we go through every day.’ They start telling me about other stuff, I’m saying, ‘Really?’ There are so many little things in their rules and their regulations, when you violate one thing and then it’s like a, a domino effect. Everything else go wrong too, you know? 

Mr. Slaughter started to see that his check situation was part of a much larger issue… one that affected not just him and his friends in Buena Vista, but farmers across Georgia. 

So they started talking, meeting up, comparing notes… and they started to see how many of their businesses had been hurt by dealing with the USDA.

On top of that, many of them had individually been filing discrimination complaints to the agency for years…and yet, few had received a response. For all the official complaints, there didn’t seem to be any change in the USDA’s behavior.

Mr. Slaughter and his fellow farmers kept talking, and gathering information throughout the nineties…connecting with more people around the country. 

Eddie Slaughter: We had farmers that come out of Mississippi. They would stop in Alabama and pick up George Hall, come through Georgia, and pick up me and Lucious Abrams. And we would go through South Carolina and pick up, uh, Hezekiah Gibson, and North Carolina, pick up Tim Pigford. And all of us would go on. 

All across the country people were seeing a persistent pattern of discrimination at USDA… and a persistent pattern of the agency failing to address complaints about that discrimination… 

Eddie Slaughter: We just could not believe that all this stuff is going wrong and they can do this stuff to us, and can’t nothing be done about it. We said, ‘Look, we gonna have to get active about it, so that they can understand that we’ve not been heard.’ So pretty much the fight started from there. 

They held demonstrations in Washington, D.C., confronting lawmakers and attracting some press… In 1996, they protested in front of the White House…Mr. Slaughter and many other Black farmers even testified at a Congressional Black Caucus hearing…

Finally, in 1997, a farmer from North Carolina, Timothy Pigford, filed a suit against the USDA.

He claimed he had been denied loan approval from the agency based on his race… AND when he filed complaints about his mistreatment, they had been ignored. 


Almost two years later, Mr. Pigford’s lawsuit was combined with another case from a different Black farmer, and made into a class action lawsuit called ‘Pigford versus Glickman.’ Dan Glickman was the Secretary of Agriculture at the time.

The suit accused the USDA of long-running racial discrimination against Black farmers in regards to the types of loans and assistance they did or did not receive. It also claimed that the USDA had consistently failed to address official complaints about that discrimination.

Farmers and ranchers could join the class action, if they met a few criteria: they had to be African American; they had to have farmed, or tried to farm, between 1981 and 1996; they had to have applied or attempted to apply for USDA credit or benefits related to their farms; they had to believe they were discriminated against; and they had to have made a complaint about that discrimination.

The case drew thousands of claimants.

Nate Bradford’s dad joined the suit. And remember Boley’s Mayor Shelton? Her dad was a claimant, too.

Stephon Bowens represented some of the claimants. 

He’d already worked with farmers before, as Executive Director of a nonprofit legal organization called the North Carolina Association of Black Lawyers Land Loss Prevention Project. 

Stephon Bowens: It was founded out of a need to help African Americans primarily, protect, uh, one of their most valuable assets, their land. 

Stephon and his colleagues held seminars around North Carolina, and set up clinics to help people with estate planning. They’d help negotiate tax resolutions for people who were under the threat of their land being foreclosed on.

Stephon Bowens: We did everything that we could to ensure that, uh, landowners and family farmers would be able to stay on their land and more importantly, be able to keep the land in the family.

So when the Pigford versus Glickman case came along… it was a chance to finally hold USDA accountable for its long, documented history of discrimination. 


In 1920, there were more than nine hundred thousand Black farmers in America. By the time of Pigford versus Glickman in the late 90s, there were fewer than nineteen thousand. 

The number of Black farmers in America dropped by nearly ninety eight percent in less than a century.

And one of the leading contributing factors was the USDA’s discriminatory loan practices… practices that people had been talking about for more than 30 years.

Back in 1965, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found that the USDA had discriminated against Black farmers by providing much smaller loans than it gave to white farmers.  

Despite that finding, a 1982 report from the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights found the same discrimination had continued… 

Fifteen years after that, with discrimination still rife, and complaints still going unanswered, Pigford was the first real chance Black farmers and ranchers had to fight back against the USDA… and to demand justice for all they’d gone through.

Stephon Bowens: Now, what was so interesting about this case was that the case was based on what’s called ECOA, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act. And the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, in a nutshell, um, provided that federal programs could not discriminate when providing loans, or in the lending process. And USDA, uh, at the time had a process whereby they used what are called county committees. 

A county committee would get together and decide who was eligible for a loan… who was or wasn’t credit worthy. The committees were made up of a small group of local farmers. They were typically all-white.

Stephon Bowens: Lo and behold, what you might imagine, uh, happened was that most African-American farmers were deemed not creditworthy and not able to receive, uh, a loan. And there are various ways that this was accomplished. USDA, uh, county and local employees who would do things such as uh, if a black farmer came in and sought an operating loan, for example, so that he or she could get their crops in the field in a timely manner, would refuse to give them an application or would take the application and throw it away. Or would refuse to give the loan because one of the county committee members had their eye on that piece of property and knew that if this person didn’t get the lending assistance that they needed, and that they were otherwise eligible for, that that farm would be up for sale by USDA in a year or so.

Many of the farmers and ranchers involved in Pigford had been discriminated against for decades. They lived at or below the poverty line. 

Though Mr. Slaughter was in his late forties at that point, many of the claimants were much older… well into their sixties and seventies. This lawsuit was an opportunity for them to be made whole over what they’d lost or missed out on… and a chance for them to see ALL the complaints they’d been making for years and years finally come to light. 

At least, that’s what they thought.

That’s after the break.

[BREAK 18:00-18:04]

APRIL: How did USDA respond to the lawsuit?

Stephon Bowens: Their lead counsel was, uh, former military. And he was tenaciously in opposition to providing, um, any relief. Now, and I don’t say that because, uh, I think he was a bad person, I say that because he was a zealous advocate on behalf of his client, USDA, and he wanted to win. When the case was initially, um, set up, Secretary Glickman was, uh, more receptive to, um, the plight of the African American farmers. He certainly had heard the stories, and understood what had occurred. You can’t know what it’s like, but you can empathize. And I would say to you that some of that empathy, um, led us to being able to reach the settlement that was reached.

Pigford versus Glickman was a class action lawsuit because the USDA’s alleged negligence in investigating complaints of discrimination was SO widespread.

In a typical class action lawsuit, the settlement’s decided by a handful of people from the class going through a series of MINI TRIALS. The findings from those trials are then applied to everyone in the class. 

But in Pigford, because individual farmers’ situations were SO distinct, the court decided to structure the settlement in a different way. They came up with two tracks, two different categories of claims. Each farmer would have to pick one track to pursue.

So after the settlement was reached, Mr. Slaughter had to decide between track A and track B.

For track A Mr Slaughter would need to come up with ‘substantial proof’ of USDA discrimination. He’d have to show that when he applied for a USDA loan, that that loan was denied, delayed or decreased.

He’d need to show that a white farmer with a similar situation had been treated more favorably than he was. Finally, he’d need to be able to show that all of that added up to an economic loss. 

If he chose track A, Mr. Slaughter wouldn’t have the chance to tell his story—he’d just submit his claim and wait to hear back.

And if he succeeded, he’d get a fifty thousand dollar payment and the chance to have some of his USDA-related debt forgiven. 

Track A… that was the simple option. 

If Mr. Slaughter chose track B, he’d need to be able to convince an arbitrator that USDA discrimination had cost him more than fifty thousand dollars in damages. He’d have to gather a lot more paperwork – according to the settlement, a ‘preponderance of evidence’ – and present it all at a mini trial. 

If Mr. Slaughter chose track B and succeeded, he could be compensated for all of the costs tied to the discrimination he’d faced. To his calculation, that would be about eight hundred thousand dollars in damages. If he lost… he could miss out altogether.


Track A or track B. It wasn’t an easy decision for Mr. Slaughter, or any of the other claimants.

Eddie Slaughter: Everybody was going for track B, and the lawyers just told us ‘Stop, stop.’

Mr. Slaughter says that the lawyers warned the farmers off the more complicated track.

Instead, he says they told them that track A was a decent deal: They wouldn’t have to gather that “preponderance of evidence” and they’d get a fifty thousand dollar damages payment…straight up. But compared to the eight hundred thousand dollars Mr. Slaughter says he’s lost over the years…

Eddie Slaughter: The $50,000 don’t cover none of our actual damages. $50,000 ain’t a drop in the bucket for what we’ve lost. 

But there was something appealing about track A:

Eddie Slaughter: The lawyers, they said, ‘Look, you get the $50,000, and you get the debt relief…you get your farm back.’ 

Mr. Slaughter wanted his eight hundred thousand dollars in damages, yes, but he was also deeply concerned about getting his debt relieved. 

So were many of the farmers. If they could get out from under their outstanding USDA-debt, especially their farm ownership loans, Mr. Slaughter says they believed they might own their land free and clear. 

Mr. Slaughter had other loans with the USDA, like farm operating and emergency loans, but the farm ownership loan was his biggest worry; getting that debt relieved would be LIFE CHANGING.


So Track A was looking better… Meanwhile, the ‘preponderance of evidence’ needed for track B? That meant farmers needed DOCUMENTATION. And one of the most important pieces of paperwork would be proof that their claims of USDA discrimination had gone ignored. 

But shortly after the combined class action suit was filed, the court ordered USDA to open its files to plaintiffs and give them the records related to their claims of racial discrimination. 


And guess what? The department couldn’t deliver.

It had records for some claimants, but for the majority of the folks in the lawsuit, the necessary paperwork just didn’t exist.

Stephon Bowens: USDA failed to provide many of the records of these farmers.

Stephon again.

Stephon Bowens: And part of that goes back to, uh, what we would say the, the Reagan era in the early eighties where, farmers could make a complaint to the Office of Civil Rights, but there was no one manning the Office of Civil Rights, if you will, at USDA. Uh, and typically, when officials went back to see if they could find the complaints, what they found was, uh, they couldn’t find the files. Some files had been destroyed…there were requests for assistance letters in there that had gone unopened. 

The USDA couldn’t find documentation for many of the discrimination claims farmers said they had submitted over the course of more than a decade.

Imagine overworked farmers and ranchers making the effort to write out how the USDA had treated them, only to have those complaints go unread, piling up in a room, or just plain thrown out.

Remember how President Reagan dismantled the USDA’s Office of Civil Rights in 1983… that’s part of why there’s so little documentation from that era. Farmers could still submit complaints, even though the office had ceased to exist, but it wasn’t anyone’s job to actually go through them, file them, or address them. 

This negligence by the USDA was particularly ironic, because the whole root of Mr. Pigford’s original lawsuit was that when he filed complaints about his mistreatment by the USDA, they had been ignored.


There are lots of reasons why the USDA hadn’t addressed its systemic discrimination problem.. but the fact that they weren’t even tracking it is an obvious one.


Less than one percent of all claimants in Pigford versus Glickman went with track B.


It was often a gamble that paid off, according to Stephon.

Stephon Bowens: There were a number of track B cases that were successful. For example, I’ve represented clients that have received, uh, awards in excess of $500,000, and debt write off of, uh, more than $500,000. 

But without that “preponderance of evidence”, most claimants’ best bet was track A. They wouldn’t get back everything they’d lost but at least they’d get something for their troubles—a little money, maybe some debt relief, and perhaps even ownership of their land. 

APRIL: And you went through track a?

Eddie Slaughter: I did, not for the 50,000, but to get my land back, you know, that’s what everybody went for. Nobody went—the 50,000, we wasn’t worried about it. We wanted our land back. ‘Cause my land was worth way more than 50,000, way more than $50,000. Are you crazy? 


In the Pigford settlement, there was the possibility of farm ownership loan forgiveness.

But in the end, only several hundred claimants received debt forgiveness for any of their loans. Even if they prevailed in their claim, many Pigford claimants struggled to hold on to their land.

Eddie Slaughter: They did not want to return to us the land debt-free because that was wealth and power. When we talking about handing down generational wealth…that was true wealth and true power. Economic power. 

So, the struggle for the land, and the power it held, would go on.

Eddie Slaughter: What is the sin of the Black farmer that he can’t go to court to receive justice? What about us? We’re God-fearing, hardworking, law-abiding, tax-paying citizens. So why can’t we receive justice in this country?


It’s important to understand that the USDA never actually came out and said it would change its ways by promptly investigating complaints or by firing the employees who had discriminated against these Black farmers and ranchers. 

Despite the damages paid out, the settlement language didn’t directly acknowledge the USDA’s systemic discrimination. There was no requirement for the agency to change its practices or take public responsibility for their actions.

And they didn’t have to, because the claimants never directly asked for it.

Stephon Bowens: They did not seek prospective relief. What I mean by prospective relief, they did not seek to make the US Department of Agriculture change its practices. They sought money, not fundamental change in the structure of agriculture. And the judge, uh, he actually lamented over that. He said, ‘You know, I can’t put terms in that the parties didn’t seek.’ Um, and one of the things that we were so concerned about was that there was nothing in this, this settlement agreement that stopped the government and stopped USDA from discriminating again. And I can tell you, based on my experience at Land Loss and working with the farmers during this time period, um, that discrimination continued. And that a number of, of, uh, African American farmers were retaliated against by USDA officials. 

Some farmers believe that retaliation came in the form of offsets. 

Remember them? 

Offsets are when you’re in debt to the government and you can’t pay them back directly, so they start to look at parts of your income they can take money from. It’s kind of like when you can’t pay back your student loans, so the government garnishes your wages to pay down your debt, grabbing some off the top before it ever gets to you. 

Many track A farmers were still indebted to the USDA. The agency could still collect on outstanding debt while their claims were pending, AND after the case was settled, by offsetting them. 

…social security checks, income tax returns, pensions, subsidy payments, they were all fair game for offsets. 

Mr. Slaughter says that it took about six months to receive his fifty thousand dollar payment…

And a little over a year later, he was offset. Although his farm ownership loan was forgiven, he had other outstanding debt that wasn’t. 

Eddie Slaughter: They start offsetting my social security disability check. You know, ‘cause I done retired now from Procter and Gamble. And they’re taking money out of your income that you had not prepared for. So this was really nothing but to punish us for standing up for our rights.

And then those offsets, combined with the unforgiven USDA debt, did all kinds of harm to Mr Slaughter’s credit score, which he says had huge impacts on the rest of his life.

Eddie Slaughter: I need to keep the lights on. I need to have food on the table. I need a roof over me and my wife and my children’s head, all this stuff. My roof is leaking, you know, and I only got a fixed income coming in, but you done made my credit so bad, I can’t go to the bank to borrow $2,000 to fix my roof. You know, I can’t do nothing. My car break down, and I need $800, I can’t go to the bank and borrow it, because you done made my credit bad. It’s economic terrorism, so it affects every facet of your life when they take offsets from you and you weren’t prepared for it. And once you make your credit bad, you know what? It’s hard to get it back. 

Over the course of nearly a decade, Mr. Slaughter says the government offset him for more than FORTY THOUSAND DOLLARS. All in all, he says, it’s like the Pigford settlement never happened.

Eddie Slaughter: We did get the $50,000, but we didn’t get the land back. And then they took the $50,000 back through offsets.

As for getting his land back and his debt relieved, Mr. Slaughter says that he was able to settle that under the Trump administration, when he asked then Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue for a debt compromise.

Eddie Slaughter: When I got my cancellation, it felt good. You know, it did, it felt good. You know, So that means that, uh, right now I probably got about $300,000 worth of real estate. 

But Mr. Slaughter doesn’t have the equipment to farm all of his land like he used to.

And he’s not the only one. Mr. Slaughter told me about other Black farmers he knows who have been so engaged in fighting the USDA for so long that their tractors have rusted out in the fields.

And Mr Slaughter’s in his seventies and in poor health after fighting the USDA for decades.

Eddie Slaughter: I didn’t realize how bad it stressed me out. Uh, I was on dialysis for 12 years. In 2013, I got a kidney transplant.  I’ve been amputated in both of my legs. You know, I’m blind in my left eye. I’ve had stents put in my heart and I’ve had gangrene. I, I mean, it has gone on and on, you know. And what it does when you are fighting a fight like the one you fight with USDA, it has profound effect on you physically, financially, and mentally…but God has been very gracious and good to me. And when I realized how it was stressing me out, I started doing the things to turn it around. So I can still drive my tractor, my car, my truck, whatever I want to do. And I can pretty much go everywhere I want to do. I’m still independent, but it took a toll on me physically. It really did. You know? 


Ultimately, Pigford versus Glickman was one of the largest civil rights settlement cases in the history of the United States.

There was even a Pigford II case, created for people who were too late to participate in the initial suit.

Between both Pigford cases, over sixty thousand people submitted claims. Roughly half of them won some kind of damages.

As a result of Pigford, the federal government returned more than two billion dollars to claimants.

It might sound like a lot, but we don’t know how many of those claimants were later subject to offsets.

We DO know, however, that some of those offset payments were given back to some claimants.

All of this back and forth left Mr. Slaughter and a lot of other farmers and ranchers unsure whether or not the class action suit did any real good.

Stephon Bowens thinks it did.

Stephon Bowens: By and large, was Pigford a good thing? Absolutely. Could it have been better, Could it have been more comprehensive? Could it have been made much simpler? Absolutely. From a practical perspective, what if the government had just agreed to wipe out all of the debt of African American farmers and pay them $100,000 as opposed to the $50,000 under track A? There are a number of things that we can look at that we suggested, um, early on that uh, could have benefited the farmers in a different way.

It’s clear that the USDA has discriminated against Black farmers and ranchers for decades. Many people think that discrimination continues today. And it’s not hard to understand WHY that might be.

When powerful institutions like the USDA are systemically racist, correcting those issues requires systemic change.

People were hopeful that the Pigford lawsuit would be a solution to longstanding problems with the USDA, but the settlement didn’t directly acknowledge or address the agency’s systemic discrimination against Black farmers and ranchers. 

Instead of prompting an agency overhaul, the lawsuit was more of a band aid. 

As a result, advocates like Stephon argue that the USDA’s root issues continued to fester. And that has had consequences. 

Stephon Bowens: By and large there are fewer African American farmers. You know, at the time of Pigford, the average age of the farmer was between 62 and 68. And that trend unfortunately hasn’t changed. So many African Americans are continuing to lose their land and lose their family farms and are choosing not to go back into agriculture because they don’t see a way forward.

Mr. Slaughter told me just how many Black farmers have passed away during this decades-long battle with the USDA.

People that he used to organize with and look up to. Some of them never got their land back. 


But even after all this time and strife, Mr. Slaughter still has some gas left in the tank. 

APRIL: And are you still actively fighting the USDA today?

Eddie Slaughter: Till the day I die, or we receive justice. Whichever come first. 


Mr. Slaughter died suddenly on Wednesday, September 27, 2023, after experiencing shortness of breath at his home in Buena Vista, Georgia, according to friends and family. He was 72 years old. 

He is survived by his wife Gloria, six children, nine stepchildren and many grandchildren.

Family members said they were grieving both the loss of Mr. Slaughter and his unfinished battle. 


Mr. Slaughter told us that he wanted his story to end differently than others. He wanted to pass his land onto his grandchildren. He wanted it to help them thrive.


Back in Oklahoma, Nate’s hoping to do the same thing for his sons.


In our final episode, we return to Oklahoma, and G-line ranch, to find out what’s in store for Nate. 

Nate Bradford: Oh, man…I feel like, you know I had a new beginning and, um, we could take all that paperwork, throw it in the trash, and just look for the future. 


This season of The Heist is hosted by me, April Simpson. And brought to you by the Center for Public Integrity.

This episode was written and produced by Kiarra Powell.

Our team includes Camille Petersen, Wilson Sayre, Sara Nics, Keishel Williams, Dan O’Donnell, Mc Nelly Torres, Matt DeRienzo, Jamie Smith Hopkins, Lisa Yanick Litwiller, Ashley Clarke, Vanessa Lee, Charlie Dodge, and Janeen Jones.

Our fact checker is Peter Newbatt Smith.

This episode was mixed by Louis from Story Yard.

And this podcast was produced in partnership with the McGraw Center for Business Journalism at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

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