Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

Synopsis

In May 1967, internationally renowned activist Fannie Lou Hamer purchased forty acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, launching the Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC). A community-based rural and economic development project, FFC would grow to over 600 acres, offering a means for local sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestic workers to pursue community wellness, self-reliance, and political resistance. Life on the cooperative farm presented an alternative to the second wave of northern migration by African Americans--an opportunity to stay in the South, live off the land, and create a healthy community based upon building an alternative food system as a cooperative and collective effort.

Freedom Farmers expands the historical narrative of the black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern black farmers and the organizations they formed. Whereas existing scholarship generally views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of black people, this book reveals agriculture as a site of resistance and provides a historical foundation that adds meaning and context to current conversations around the resurgence of food justice/sovereignty movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

Excerpt

When I first heard about Monica White’s work, I was already looking, as she was, to fill in the blanks in the story of black people’s role in food justice that the dominant food movement narrative had left out. I wanted this for myself and for my son, whose birth was the impetus for my own journey into the world of food justice. I thought I was prepared to be the mother of a black boy in the United States. I thought I understood the threats and obstacles that he would face because of his race and gender. I anticipated that he would need a proper education to all the traps that a black boy must maneuver to become a man. I never imagined that the U.S. food and agricultural system would become part of the list of threats to his life, but he is allergic to eggs, peanuts, shellfish, and all dairy products. I wanted him to live free, and I knew that his survival was related to my ability to find out more about the food system. I had a family to feed. I had to do the practical work that would feed my family. Stewardship of urban land was my route to food activism that led to demanding food justice for me, my family, and my community.

Working urban land to feed my son, I had uncovered a connection to the land that I did not expect. I learned that growing food was an act of resistance. This insight is also a central point of the book you hold in your hands. Growing food on the West Side of Chicago, I was excited to learn that there were others, across the country, who were just as concerned about the food system. Yet it became clear very quickly that the predominantly white food movement saw the lack of healthy food in my community as a sign that we did not care for healthy food. Those in that movement blamed culture and poor food choices, not industrial agriculture. the solutions they proposed included food pantries, classes to teach healthy eating, and other remedies that tended to pathologize the culture rather than the food and agricultural industry.

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