What Happened To 40 Acres & A Mule?

Via Flickr

September 20, 2019

It’s a sad truth: there are only a handful of Black farmers left. One reason why is the Great Migration, which saw millions of Black people leave the South due to racism throughout the 20th century. Another reason?

It’s been much harder for Black people to pass down farms. “My kids never saw me do nothing but struggle to stay on my farm,” explained farmer John Boyd, Jr. It’s even more difficult when legal documents like deeds and wills are hard to come by. 

The biggest reason, though? Straight-up racism. Even today, Black farmers are sold bad seeds, get lower prices for the same crops, and banks refuse to give them loans. Black farmers are losing their land at 10x the rate of whites!

Boyd, Jr., with help from then-Senator Barack Obama, sued the USDA in 1997 - and won over $1 billion for Black farmers! Another lawsuit brought over $1 billion more a few years later.

But split among tens of thousands, each farm only received about $50,000 - most of it going to paying debts.

While the lawsuits have had some impact, many Black farmers are watching the reparations debates carefully. If they’re going to have a serious impact, farmland must be a significant aspect. 

In the meantime, America’s Black farmers will continue doing the difficult, crucially important work of growing the food we eat every day.

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