New Book Highlights Black farmers’ role in the struggle for civil rightsBreaking News
tags: agriculture, civil rights, African American history
Farming isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think of the civil rights movement. But a new book tells the buried stories of black agrarian communities that used land and agriculture to build strategies for collective liberation throughout the 20th century. In Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, Monica M. White, assistant professor of environmental justice at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, traces the history of black land-based social movements from the time of slavery to today’s urban gardens in Rust Belt cities.
“This book is an effort to recover, tell, and honor the stories of collective agency and community resilience of the black rural poor, a group the civil rights movement left behind,” White writes in the book’s introduction. “Our historical memory has been profoundly affected by those narratives of the civil rights movement that, in emphasizing the ‘talented tenth,’ have failed to capture the roles of black working-class men and women and thus often have ignored the legacy of black farmers and those who lived close to the land.”
FERN’s Leah Douglas spoke with White about how her book updates our thinking on the civil rights movement, the influence of black agricultural cooperatives, and what black agrarian movements can teach us about fighting for justice today. The interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
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