Faculty Research & Creative Activity

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

April 2003

Abstract

"African American Farmers and Land Loss in Texas," surveys the ways that discrimination at the local, state, and national levels constrained minority farmers during the twentieth century. It considers the characteristics of small-scale farming that created liabilities for landowners regardless of race, including state and federal programs that favored commercial and agribusiness interests. In addition to economic challenges African American farmers had to negotiate racism in the Jim Crow South. The Texas Agricultural Extension Service, the state branch of the USDA's Extension Service, segregated in 1915. The "Negro" division gave black farmers access to information about USDA programs, but it emphasized their subordinate position relative to white farmers. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not reverse decades of racial discrimination. Instead, USDA officials relied on federalism, a theory as old as the Constitution, to justify their tolerance of civil rights violations in Texas and elsewhere. Then, special needs legislation passed during the 1970s and 1980s did not realize its potential to serve ethnically diverse and economically disadvantaged rural Texans. Discrimination based on race combined with a bias toward commercial production. This crippled most black farmers and led to their near extinction.

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

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