Forty Acres and a Dream

Photographer John Ficara captures the plight of black farmers in the United States.

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    Like lightning in a bottle, the struggle of black farmers in America has been captured in vivid black and white moments by documentary photographer, John Ficara.

    The stories he hears capture a dying way of life.

    Roger Lamar is a dairy farmer. He works the same land that has been in his family for generations. He faces the harsh reality that family farms are being consumed almost as quickly as the produce they grow, due in part he claims, to institutional discrimination from banks and the government.

    Willy Adams is the next generation; his is the face of modern agri-business and farming globalisation. Yet, despite his hard work he knows that he will be the last in his family to work this land.

    Ficara has worked to capture their life stories and photograph their heritage before it evaporates.

    Vanishing history

    The history of black owned farms in the United States dates back to the years immediately following the US Civil War in the mid-1800s.

    At the end of the war the then US president, Abraham Lincoln, liberated all of the slaves and the reforms that followed promised that each family would receive forty acres and a mule, a promise that was never fulfilled.

    Black owned farms peaked in the early 1920s with an estimated total of 15 million acres and over 900,000 farmers.

    Today there are only 2.2 million acres owned by black farmers. These farmers are losing their land three times faster than white family farmers and a recent study by the university of Michigan predicts that within the next ten years there will be virtually no black owned farms.

    This is a vanishing part of American history and Ficara uses the power of their stories and these images to keep the history of their slice of the American dream alive while their way of life falls under the plough forever.

     

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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