The Stream

Why aren’t there more black farmers in the United States?

Government discrimination has cost African American farmers nearly 80 percent of their land over the past 100 years. Many are fighting to hold on to what’s left.

On Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 19:30 GMT:
A hundred years ago, 15 percent of farmers in the United States were black. Today, that number has shrunk to less than two percent.

The decline is due largely to racism, financial discrimination and violence – a combination of obstacles that started with slavery and continues to persist today.

This abuse was formally recognised in 1999, when the government settled with black farmers over a loan discrimination case. Over the past 20 years, farmers have received more than $2 billion in compensation as a result of that litigation.

But many advocates say the money isn’t enough. The US is a country where land ownership equates to wealth. And by one measure, the loss of millions of acres of farmland since 1920 has translated into more than $120 billion in denied opportunities for black farmers and their heirs.

Despite the challenges, many young African Americans are starting to return to farming. Some are eager to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors or to support healthier, sustainable living. But the success of their endeavors still depends on many factors outside of their control.

In this episode we ask, why aren’t there more black farmers in the United States? Join the conversation.


On this episode of The Stream, we speak with:


Carmen Harris, @USCUpstate
History professor at the University of South Carolina Upstate


Julius Tillery, @Mr_Black_Cotton
Cotton farmer


Kirtrina Baxter, soilgeneration
Organiser and land and food justice activist at Soil Generation


Willena Scott-White
Retired educator and farmer


Read more:
More Black U.S. Farmers, But Fewer Own Land or Earn Top Income – Bloomberg
The Great Land Robbery – The Atlantic
There were nearly a million black farmers in 1920. Why have they disappeared? – The Guardian

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