Youngblood takes on ConocoPhillips for rights to family’s ancestral holdings in Texas

DALLAS — The need for every African-American family to conduct a genealogy is demonstrated by a new lawsuit by private equity financier Kneeland Youngblood on behalf of hundreds of his fellow ancestors against ConocoPhillips for royalties from an oil discovery.

As the 1910 map from the U.S. Census shows, the 105 counties with a predominately Black population, which roughly coincide with the 1860 map of the highest concentration of enslaved Africans, was dominated by Black land ownership.

At issue in the suit is 150 acres purchased by Youngblood’s great-great grandfather, Louis Eckford, in 1889. A jury sustained the Eckford descendant’s continuing ownership in the property this summer following ConocoPhillips contacting them in 2011.

The chain of ownership confusion was common for properties whose original purchasers died without a will. The property would pass to all that person’s heirs, any one of which could cause the land to be sold or placed under lein.

ReUNION: Education-Arts-Heritage is encouraging school districts to make tracing their family trees an assignment for Black students so that each can connect themselves to the 1870 Census, when acquiring land ownership was a top priority for the freedmen from Texas to Virginia.

Youngblood, a physician whose Pharos Capital manages $1.5 billion, said he was pursuing the suit on behalf of his extended family.

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