Last year, a fact-checker for the Washington Post questioned U.S. Senator Tim Scott’s (R-SC) claim that his family went “From Cotton to Congress” in one lifetime. Scott’s grandfather, this fact-checker discovered, did in fact own land!
Yes, following emancipation, black land ownership increased in the rural South, in some states dramatically. This history was first developed by Robert Higgs in his magnificent work Competition and Coercion: Blacks in the American Economy 1865-1914 (Cambridge, 1977). Higgs examined the pattern in Georgia. Robert Margo examined several other states (but see Higgs’ rejoinder regarding certain details).