Alabama woman signs over land in race settlement

A property owner in Montgomery, Alabama recently agreed to sign over a vacant lot, free of charge, to an African-American couple which she had allegedly refused to sell the property. Angeline Howell gave the land to Larry and Verlinda Boswell as part of an unusual settlement agreement which resolved a federal complaint. The land's estimated value is $25,000. The Boswells received the deed on April 23, 1997.

In late 1995, Verlinda Boswell, a beauty salon owner, responded to a sign which advertised residential lots for sale on Jenkins Road in Montgomery. Verlinda Boswell spoke to Howell regarding the possible purchase of one of the lots. At that time, Howell said that all of the lots had already been sold. However, the Boswells continued to see signs advertising the lots for sale. Verlinda Boswell contacted Howell again. This time, Howell said that there was no way that she would sell a lot to her and that there was no point in discussing it further.

During tests, owner says that land for sale won't be advertised because "the blacks" might buy
A series of tests conducted by the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center found evidence to support the Boswell's allegations of racial discrimination. During one test, Howell told a white tester that a lot was still for sale, but would not be advertised any longer because "the blacks might want to buy it." Another tester mentioned to Howell that a friend might be interested in one of the lots. Howell replied, "She's white, isn't she?"

The Boswells were distraught that the discrimination against them had taken place. They had been looking for a lot to build their dream home since 1990. They especially liked the lots on Jenkins Road because the area was safe, had little traffic, and is in an area with good schools. It seemed to be the perfect place to raise their son, Devin.

Once they suspected racial discrimination, the Boswells contacted the Central Alabama Fair Housing Center. The Center assisted the Boswells in filing acomplaint with the US Department of Housing and UrbanDevelopment (HUD) in April 1996. HUD's Atlanta office issued a Charge of Discrimination in September 1996.