352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, notes, index
Discrimination against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights
Between 1940 and 1974, the number of African American farmers fell from 681,790 to just 45,594--a drop of 93 percent. In his hard-hitting book, historian Pete Daniel analyzes this decline and chronicles black farmers' fierce struggles to remain on the land in the face of discrimination by bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He exposes the shameful fact that at the very moment civil rights laws promised to end discrimination, hundreds of thousands of black farmers lost their hold on the land as they were denied loans, information, and access to the programs essential to survival in a capital-intensive farm structure.
More than a matter of neglect of these farmers and their rights, this "passive nullification" consisted of a blizzard of bureaucratic obfuscation, blatant acts of discrimination and cronyism, violence, and intimidation. Dispossession recovers a lost chapter of the black experience in the American South, presenting a counternarrative to the conventional story of the progress achieved by the civil rights movement.
"Soberingly revealing the dark underside of an era hailed for black success against racism, Daniel's work exposes sickening, irreparable, racist destruction that compels reconception of popular memories of a generation of civil rights victories. This book belongs in any serious collection on U.S. civil rights, federal farm policy, or 20th-century America."
“Likely to stimulate renewed scholarly interest in 20th-century agricultural history, this fine book belongs in every academic library. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”
“Southern farmers struggled to keep up with changes in technology and policy, economics and politics, labor relations and out-migration. African American farmers bore the additional burden of crippling discrimination. . . . With customary passion, Pete Daniel methodically demonstrates that the USDA bears much of the blame. Dispossession catalogs decades of locally administered and federally sanctioned racism that permeated this powerful government agency’s activities within the South.”
--North Carolina Historical Review
“The critical exposure of discrimination at all levels of government is both informative and provocative and is a welcome addition to the historiographical conversation.”
"A rich, compelling, and important book. No one chronicles the way government and the advocates of scientific agriculture have changed the rural culture of the South better than Pete Daniel."
--Anthony J. Badger, Cambridge University
"In this intense and insightful book, Pete Daniel exposes the institutional racism at work in all agencies of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, while chronicling the struggles of the black farmers 'who stubbornly refused to go quietly from their farms.' Expanding the boundaries of the civil rights movement, Dispossession is a powerful and important contribution to the historiography of the black freedom struggle."
--John Dittmer, author of Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi
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