Media Advisory: Expected Ruling Could Preserve Disputed Louisiana Land with Ties to Slavery

Edgard, La., May 10, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- On Thursday, May 11, the Descendants Project will appear in court for a key hearing that will determine whether a decades-old rezoning ordinance that categorized the historic St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana as an industrial area was illegal. This would have the impact of returning the Parish to residential zoning as well as limiting future industrial development in the area, including a massive and controversial grain export terminal proposed by Denver-based Greenfield Louisiana LLC that would have one silo as tall as the Statue of Liberty.

The Descendants Project was formed by sisters Joy Banner and Jo Banner of Wallace, La., to preserve and protect the health, land and lives of the Black descendant community in Louisiana’s River Parishes. The site in dispute is adjacent to two former plantations — one of which is also a slavery museum — that likely contain important archaeological resources, including the remains of unmarked burial grounds for enslaved people. Details for the upcoming hearing can be found below.

On Tuesday, May 9, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the 11-mile corridor along the Mississippi River known as “the West Bank” in St. John the Baptist Parish in Louisiana as one of its “11 Most Endangered Historic Places for 2023.” 

The National Trust noted in its announcement that if Greenfield Louisiana LLC builds its proposed grain elevators in the region, the port facility “would be 275 feet tall, as tall as the Louisiana Superdome, and could tower over historic communities and buildings, disturb archaeological remains, and dramatically harm the St. John Parish community with negative visual and environmental impacts. The permitting of Greenfield Terminal could also encourage further heavy industrial development within this nationally significant historic area.” Additional details about the announcement can be found on the Louisiana Trust for Historic Preservation site.

The community of Wallace and the West Bank of St. John the Baptist Parish in the middle of Louisiana’s Cancer Alley — an 85-mile stretch between Baton Rouge and New Orleans inundated with pollution from petrochemical plants, grain elevators, an aluminum plant and more. As plantation-owning families sold their land to these plants, Black descendant communities like the community of Wallace have borne the brunt of the health impacts including increased risks of Cancer and asthma.

Court Hearing:

Who: The Descendants Project vs. St. John the Baptist Parish
What: Court Hearing before Judge J. Sterling Snowdy of the 40th Judicial District in Louisiana
When: Thursday, May 11 at 10 a.m. CDT
Where: St. John Parish Courthouse, 2393 LA-18, Edgard, La. 

Media Tour and Press Conference Schedule for Saturday, May 13: 

9:30-9:45 a.m. – Travel to Press Conference (Reporters meet at Fee-Fo-Lay Café 5593 Highway 18, Wallace, La. to board the bus)
10-10:30 a.m. – Press Conference in front of the Caire Stores at 2403 LA Hwy 18, Edgard, La.
(Alternate Rain Location: Juan Anthony Joseph Memorial Park at 3445 LA Hwy 18, Edgard, La.)
10:30-11 a.m. – Questions/Interviews
11-11:45 a.m. – Fam Bus tour through the 11 Miles with Jo and Joy Banner, Brian Davis (executive director of the Louisiana Trust for Historic Places), and Chris Cody (associate general counsel the National Trust for Historic Preservation), leading. Return to Fee-Fo-Lay Cafe
Noon – The Descendants Project Press Conference Stopping Greenfield/Environmental Justice/106

  • Speakers: Marc Morial (president of the National Urban League), Chris Cody, and Brian Davis. Interview/Questions (Jo and Joy Banner will be available for media questions)
  • Live Music – Provided by Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church

1 p.m. – Whitney Plantation and Evergreen Plantation are open for tours – No charge to media and community members.

Joy Banner and Jo Banner of the Descendants Project, and Pam Spees, an attorney from the Center for Constitutional Rights, are available for interviews. To schedule an interview, please contact Ally Shepherd Ahlers:

“The industrialization of this land would threaten historically significant sites and bring more noise, dust and pollution to our community, which already bears an outsize risk of cancer as a result of heavy manufacturing and pollution,” Joy and Jo Banner, founders of the Descendants Project, said in a joint statement. “We call on the courts to do the right thing by ensuring this historic land is properly zoned and protected for future generations.”

For more information, visit


The Descendants Project is a 501c3 nonprofit organization established to support descendant communities in river parishes working together to dismantle the legacies of slavery and to achieve a healed and liberated future.


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