When New Yorkers discuss the community land trust, they often describe it as a complicated land ownership structure, one that’s already proven its success in Bernie Sanders’ Burlington and in Boston. But the community land trust’s origin story reveals that it’s not simply a wonky policy tool dreamed up in the Ivy tower; rather, its roots lie in the life-and-death struggle by Blacks for civil rights in the deep South.

In the model, a community-controlled nonprofit owns land and ensures the buildings or other assets on that land continue to serve the community, such as by requiring homeowners to abide by sales restrictions on their homes. The “Arc of Justice,” a documentary released last summer and screened at the New School on Wednesday, explores the founding of the United States’ first community land trust by civil rights leaders in southern Georgia during the 1960s.

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