Bill Rankin's Legal Brief

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Gullah-Geechee lawsuit says Sapelo residents in peril

Fifty-seven Sapelo Island property owners and other residents filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday alleging that discrimination and neglect by state and local authorities are dissolving the last intact Gullah-Geechee community in the nation.

The Gullah-Geechee residents are the descendants of slaves whose families have lived on Sapelo Island for more than two centuries. The lawsuit alleges that Gullah-Geechee residents are required to pay property taxes even though the local government provides essentially no services on the island.

"We want to survive on the island," one plaintiff, 49-year-old Reginald Hall, said at a press conference outside the federal courthouse in Atlanta. "These are our homes. This is our land."

The 135-page lawsuit was filed against a number of defendants, including McIntosh County, the state of Georgia and the Sapelo Island Heritage Authority.


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Bill Rankin covers criminal justice for the Enterprise team.