One of the first steps to becoming a supportive ally to the Black community is to be educated about Black history. Black farmers in America, in particular, have been discriminated through both society and federal laws and as result, obliterated the chances of African Americans owning land, creating jobs, and building generational wealth. In 1920, there were nearly one million Black farmers in America, but now only 45,000 farmers identify as Black. Black farmers are disappearing as a result of the injustices they face. Through a history of discrimination and continuous loan rejections from the USDA, Black farmers suffer disproportionately from other races. For instance, when Black farmers do receive USDA loans, they are nearly half of the amount awarded to white farmers.
Below is a list of some helpful resources we found that educate and shine a light on the history of Black farmers. Whether you prefer watching documentaries, listening to podcasts, or reading books, we included a variety of mediums that are insightful and also digestible for you!
This film explores the history of African American farmers, starting with their conflict with the Southern white power structure many decades ago. This story of Black farmers focuses on perseverance in the face of prejudice over generations. Directed by Charline Gilbert, the documentary tells a story of “land and love,” and walks us through the generations-old struggles Black farmers faced.
Learn about the history of Black farmers and land loss through the story of Ernest Vines. He and his father fought through land disputes over a collective 70 years that cost them half of their family farm’s land. But now it’s the younger generation’s turn to fight as Kendrick Ransome, a 29-year-old farmer in rural North Carolina, continues to fight institutions based on centuries of discimination.
This video focuses on the decades-long systemic pattern of discrimination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Black farmers have been excluded from federal loan programs and proposals to compensate for past wrongs are met with controversy. Learn how this affected former farmer, Bernard Bates as his farmstead was subsequently sold off to white farmers.
Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land by Leah Penniman
Farming While Black is a comprehensive guide to understanding the contributions of the Black community to sustainable agriculture. Penniman shares a concise guide to all aspects of small-scale farming while also including wisdom from African diaspora farmers and activists.
Also, check out Leah’s keynote speech on the history of African agriculture here.
The Color of Food: Stories of Race, Resilience and Farming by Natasha Bowens
Natasha Bowens recognizes that farmers of color are generally left out of the mainstream media, yet many issues lie at the intersection of race and food. The Color of Food is a collection of portraits that bring together an agricultural history for people of color, what issues they face, and their resilience.
Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement by Monica M. White
Freedom Farmers focuses on the history of Black freedom struggle and the significant contributions of southern Black farmers and organizations. Agriculture is explored as a symbol of resistance and in the context of current conversations of food justice. Historical agriculture foundations in the Black community make food sovereignty movements in urban areas possible.
The Afro Beets Podcast explores content relating to farming and garden-to-table practices inspired by Black culture and soul. They use food to explore the African Diaspora and share knowledge of plants and agriculture.
Check out their latest episode titled, “The Importance of Black Community Gardening”.
This episode of the Point of Origin podcast highlights Black farmers and scholars who are reclaiming their land through resilience and activism. This podcast emphasizes that activism is at the center of historical narratives of Black farmers and agriculture.
Listen to Namia Penniman of Soul Fire Farm and author of We Are Each Other’s Harvest, Natalie Baszile discuss the history of Black farmers in the U.S. They talk about the harm done by stimulus packages during the pandemic, discrimination by the USDA, and what it means to reclaim their land.
Although watching or reading about discrimination against African Americans does not change the past, educating ourselves on history can help us progress toward an equitable and just future. At Growing Places, we want to help foster an educated community that feels comfortable discussing and addressing prominent issues in our community.