Josephine Wright, who fought to keep family land with the help of celebrities like Tyler Perry, has died at 94

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By /Originally published by theGrio

A 94-year-old woman who fought to preserve her family’s ancestral land in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has died.

Hilton Head matriarch Josephine Wright died Sunday surrounded by her family and other loved ones, her granddaughter, Charise Graves, confirmed on a GoFundMe page set up to collect money for her legal defense, The New York Times reported.

Wright disclosed to The Times that her late husband’s parents left him the 1.8-acre estate, which was subsequently placed in her name in 1998 following his death. It has served as a key meeting point and poignant memory filler for her seven children, 40 grandchildren, 50 great-grandchildren and 16 great-great-grandchildren.

“Her legacy as a pillar of strength, wisdom and commitment to justice will forever remain etched in our hearts,” Graves wrote on GoFundMe. The page had surpassed its $350,000 fundraising goal by over $17,000.

“As we navigate through the profound sadness of this loss,” she continued, “we find solace in knowing that Mrs. Wright’s spirit lives on through the Josephine Wright Foundation. From the bottom of our hearts, we express our sincere appreciation for the outpouring of love, condolences, and acts of kindness. Your solidarity during this period of grief has touched our family profoundly.”

As Hilton Head’s tourism industry flourished in the 1990s, with land acquisitions for decades to further develop golf courses and waterfront vacation houses, several Black families with deep ties to the area were displaced.

Bailey Point Investment, the business that owns the development that borders Wright’s land, filed a lawsuit against her last February, claiming encroachment. Her satellite dish, shed and screened porch trespassed on its property, the company claimed, and thus “significantly delayed and hindered” its development.

Tyler Perry was among the celebrities drawn to Wright’s legal battle. The actor and filmmaker shared in an Instagram post that he was “heartbroken” to hear she had died.

“You have run your race and fought an incredible fight!” Perry wrote, The Times reported. “Journey well my dear lady. You have inspired me.”

Snoop Dogg and Kyrie Irving also supported Wright, donating $10,000 and $40,000, respectively, to her GoFundMe effort.

The Times reported Tuesday that the status of Wright’s case could not immediately be determined.

Graves noted on GoFundMe that her grandmother’s “home-going service,” slated for Saturday at Mount Calvary Baptist Church in Hilton Head Island, would be available to view virtually, and a memorial service would be scheduled for a later date.