Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type


Publication Date

January 2000


Histories of African Americans in the postbellum rural South tend to depict sharecroppers and tenants as victims of the crop lien system, racism, and the capitalization of agriculture. This paper concentrates instead on rural re? formers who celebrated life in the country and believed that comfortable homes, better schools, and wholesome residents could free blacks from bondage. Their agrarian ideology reflected Euro-American influences; most believed in the Jeffersonian rhetoric that linked land ownership to virtue and independence. Because they realized that the crop lien system made prop? erty acquisition an impossible dream for most blacks, they advocated diversification and sustainable agriculture as a means to challenge the eco? nomic limitations of this system. They pursued reform from their office desks rather than from cotton fields. Some posed political challenges, but most African American agrarians, intent on creating an educated, moral, and thrifty rural population, found that cooperating with white authority furthered their goals. Rural African American landowners looked toward these new leaders for guidance during a period of intense change between the 1880s and World War I.


Available at http://www.aghistorysociety.org/