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The Decline (And Revival?) Of Black Farmers And Rural Landowners: A Review Of The Research Literature

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  • Gilbert, Jess
  • Sharp, Gwen
  • Felin, M. Sindy

Abstract

African-Americans as a group went from owning almost no land in the United States after the Civil War to peaking at 15 million acres by 1920. In that year, 14% of all US farmers were black. Of these 926,000 black farmers, all but 10,000 were in the South. By 1997, fewer than 20,000, or 1% of all farmers, were black, and they owned only about two million acres. The loss of landownership and farming operations has contributed to the poverty of many rural communities in the South. This paper consists of a review of 74 journal articles, reports, chapters, and books on African-Americans and farming, comprising most of the scholarly literature on the issue published since 1971. One of the commonalities in the literature is the sense of hopelessness in stemming the tide of black land loss. On the other hand, another commonality is the view that the black farmer and rural landowner must be sustained, even brought back. Among the studies are those claiming that landowners make up the backbone of civic and political life in rural black communities. Other advantages of landownership include increased personal pride, higher educational achievement of children, and an overall better sense of wellbeing. Most of the works offer similar perspectives of the decline of blacks in farming, and suggested solutions also are often repeated in these works. But there are differences in the works, and together they cover a wide range of issues that differentiate black farmers by sub-region, state, farm size, tenure, crops raised, and social and economic situation.

Suggested Citation

  • Gilbert, Jess & Sharp, Gwen & Felin, M. Sindy, 2001. "The Decline (And Revival?) Of Black Farmers And Rural Landowners: A Review Of The Research Literature," Working Papers 12810, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Land Tenure Center.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:uwltwp:12810
    DOI: 10.22004/ag.econ.12810
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Albert Yeboah & Karl Wright, 1985. "Potential for increasing income of black small farmers in North Carolina," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 2(3), pages 45-48, June.
    2. Adell Brown & Ralph Christy & Tesfa Gebremedhin, 1994. "Structural changes in U.S. agriculture: Implications for African American farmers," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 51-71, June.
    3. Henry Ponder, 1971. "Prospects for Black Farmers in the Years Ahead," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 53(2), pages 297-301.
    4. Christina Gladwin & Robert Zabawa, 1985. "Survival strategies of small, part-time, black Florida farmers: A response to structural change," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 2(3), pages 49-56, June.
    5. Patricia McLean-Meyinsse & Adell Brown, 1994. "Survival strategies of successful black farmers," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 73-83, June.
    6. James Fisher, 1978. "Rural ownership of land by blacks in Georgia: 1920 and 1960," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 9(1), pages 95-107, September.
    7. Tackie, Nii O. & Findlay, Henry J. & Baharanyi, Ntam, 1998. "Farm Products Marketing Practices by Limited Resource Farmers," Journal of Agribusiness, Agricultural Economics Association of Georgia, vol. 16(1), pages 1-9.
    8. Hezekiah Jones, 1994. "Federal agricultural policies: Do black farm operators benefit?," The Review of Black Political Economy, Springer;National Economic Association, vol. 22(4), pages 25-50, June.
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    Cited by:

    1. Megan Horst & Amy Marion, 2019. "Racial, ethnic and gender inequities in farmland ownership and farming in the U.S," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 36(1), pages 1-16, March.
    2. Tyler, Shakara S. & Moore, Eddie A., 2013. "Plight of Black Farmers in the Context of USDA Farm Loan Programs: A Research Agenda for the Future," Professional Agricultural Workers Journal (PAWJ), Professional Agricultural Workers Conference, vol. 1(1), pages 1-12.

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