Posted on May 3, 2022

Grain Elevator: Ruling Lets Slave Descendants Suit Go Ahead

Rebecca Santana, Associated Press, April 28, 2022

Descendants of slaves who lived and toiled in southeastern Louisiana won a key ruling Thursday allowing their legal challenge to go forward against a $400 million grain elevator planned along the Mississippi River, although the company behind the project said it would likely appeal.

Greenfield Louisiana LLC, which intends to build the terminal between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, had been pushing a court to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the Descendants Project, which is suing the regional government over what it calls the “corrupt rezoning” of the land for industrial use decades ago. Greenfield had argued on different grounds that the lawsuit should be thrown out. But during the hearing Thursday Judge J. Sterling Snowdy said he would deny all those grounds and would explain his reasoning in a more detailed ruling within days.

Two sisters, Jo and Joy Banner, formed the Descendants Project and have been leading the opposition to the grain elevator. They and about 30 supporters gathered outside the courthouse afterward to celebrate.


The ruling means that the Descendants Project can move forward with things like trying to depose figures in the company trying to build the grain elevator. Their lawsuit also raises questions about the project’s environmental risks and challenges its expected proximity to homes that have stood nearby for generations.

Greenfield purchased the land in July 2021 on the east bank of the Mississippi River in St. John the Baptist Parish and said the roughly $400 million project would include a loading terminal and 54 silos, providing more than 100 jobs. The lush green fields where the terminal would go butt up against the large levee that keeps the Mississippi River in its track.


The Descendants Project has been fighting the placement of the grain elevator, saying some homes in the nearby town of Wallace where they live would be only 260 feet (less than 80 meters) away from the project, which the lawsuit states would include “a conveyor structure nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty.”

The lawsuit also raises questions about environmental hazards such as dust from the facility posing a health hazard to the predominantly Black residents of Wallace and whether the grain terminal would disturb possible slave burial grounds. {snip}

The company has said the grain elevator would be clean, safe, provide jobs and has wide support in the community.