April 2013

Ammie McRae Jenkins

Ammie Jenkins, a community leader and social entrepreneur, believes land is our heritage and should be preserved and passed on to benefit future generations.

In 1882, Jenkins’ great-grandfather, a former slave, purchased 658 acres of land in Harnett County, NC. He and three of his sons worked in tar and turpentine to pay for the land that was divided among his descendants.

When her father died in 1954, racial threats forced Jenkins’ mother and her seven children to relocate the family to Spring Lake.

In the midst of the civil rights protests and marches Jenkins enrolled in High Point College in 1962, and became the first African American to integrate the college. In 1978 Jenkins visited the ancestral home; the return brought back good memories of family gatherings, self-sufficiency, independence, and the benefits of land ownership. Inspired by her visit, Jenkins sought to learn more about her heritage. In doing so, she discovered self-sufficient interconnected communities and documented her findings in two books, Preserving Our Family Heritage and Healing from the Land.

Like Jenkins, many African Americans lost their land through racial intimidation and were suffering as a result. In 2001, at 60 years old, Jenkins founded the Sandhills Family Heritage Association (SFHA) to address the issues of loss of land, livelihoods and cultural heritage. With the ancestral knowledge of community elders and the help of volunteers and organization partners, SFHA provides community workshops, asset mapping, a farmers market, heritage tours and an annual cultural festival.

Jenkins is especially proud of SFHA’s service learning projects for students in college and an apprenticeship program that connects farmers with local teenagers. The students develop business and life management skills while earning income.

“I see great opportunity for the future generations,” Jenkins said. “I’m hoping that we can instill in them the importance of good land stewardship, because our land and natural resources help to preserve life.”

Jenkins is the proud mother of two children, Cassandra and Jason, and she has four grandchildren.