• Ryan Bowersox

Celebrate Black History Food Leaders


Fannie Lou Hamer

In honor of Black History Month, we want to recognize the contributions that Black and Indigenous figures have had on America’s food systems. When enslaved Africans were brought to this country to be exploited for labor, European settlers also exploited the knowledge of Black and Indigenous farmers and their skills for growing crops on the land they had colonized. This is a history that has been glazed over and sometimes ignored completely.


Even after slavery ended, Black folks faced continued discrimination and injustices. Freed slaves were promised 40 acres and a mule; we know that never happened. The result was that white landowners continued to exploit Black laborers for abysmal wages. Sometimes, it was just the promise of a wage that did not always get fulfilled.


Today, only 2% of arable land is owned by Black farmers (see Vann R. Newkirk II’s article in the Atlantic). Systemic discrimination persists (see this recent NY Times article), with Black farmers obtaining only 0.2 percent of small farmer microloans from the Agriculture Department in 2015. And with this history, farming becomes a political act. Farming is deeply embedded with the history of slavery in the US, and perhaps even more shameful, what happened after slavery up until today.


The Justice for Black Farmers Act of 2020 was introduced by Cory Booker in 2020. Unfortunately, this bill was not enacted. However, with its introduction, the conversation surrounding land access to BIPOC communities has begun. And although this specific bill was not enacted, parts of it could still become law by being included in another bill in the future.


In honor of Black History Month, we want to recognize the contributions that Black and Indigenous figures have had on America’s food systems. When enslaved Africans were brought to this country to be exploited for labor, European settlers also exploited the knowledge of Black and Indigenous farmers and their skills for growing crops on the land they had colonized. This is a history that has been glazed over and sometimes ignored completely.


Black History Leader Spotlight: Fannie Lou Hamer

“In 1969 Hamer began the Freedom Farm Cooperative in the Mississippi Delta, a community economic development project for low-income Black farmworkers, providing them with food, employment, housing and education. The FFC aimed to bring agency to Black farmers and their families who had been routinely and systemically denied loans for land, forcing them to find work elsewhere or work in sharecropping. By 1973, the FFC had 600 acres of land, hundreds of families involved, as well as job training, affordable housing, education, health care.” Read More about Fannie Lou Hamer here. And follow Just Food on social media this month as we continue to spotlight other Black figures and leaders and their accomplishments and contributions to our food system.











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