In 1920, blacks owned 14% of the nation’s farms; today, there are only 18,000 black farmers, representing less than 1% of all farms.
-PBS Documentary Homecoming
My name is written on the land.
This is where I came from and this is where I intend to stay.
– Willie Head, Georgia farmer
PBS has a great site for the 1999 documentary Homecoming with lots of information and resources on the history of black farmers in the United States. This is a forgotten story in the history of African-Americans in this country. As we observe Black History Month, we should also remember this important part of the story.
The gradual denial of access to land is part of undermining the sovereignty and resources of the black community. When you have access to land and resources, you are not dependent on the state for your sustenance. Lest we think that black farmers have disappeared altogether, we should remember that they are alive and well and have their own association (National Black Farmers Association). The good folks at the Everything Jesus Ranch defy our stereotypes of African-Americans that continue to plague racial relations in our country.
The NFBA is still involved in lawsuits with the USDA about black farmers being denied loans. There’s a good interview of 10 questions with National Black Farmers President John Boyd Jr. The hunger and poverty in this country continues to disproportionately affect people of color. In Texas only 50% of people eligible for SNAP (food stamp) benefits are signed up. That’s a lot of people with very little income and very low access to food in general, much less good food. Imagine a resurgence of black farmers in both urban and rural areas feeding hungry people and empowering people of color to be the solution to their own problems. There’s a lot of barriers and issues to get from here to there, but we won’t get there unless we imagine it.
“Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice and equality.”