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Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

(Justice, Power, and Politics)

4.28  ·  Rating details ·  151 ratings  ·  31 reviews
In May 1967, internationally renowned activist Fannie Lou Hamer purchased forty acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, launching the Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC). A community-based rural and economic development project, FFC would grow to over 600 acres, offering a means for local sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestic workers to pursue community wellness, self-re ...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published January 14th 2019 by University of North Carolina Press (first published November 6th 2018)
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Feb 10, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I read this for a book club. While my enjoyment level of this was about a 4, this is due to the academic tone and nature. But that is the point of the book. I did find the topic and content fascinating and important. I would love to know about and read an author's historical fiction retelling about this, that would be fun. Overall, well worth the read. ...more
Jan 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
(Full disclosure: the author is a former colleague and a dear friend.).

This is a fabulous book that corrects the way the historical record has erased black Americans from narratives of urban agriculture. The chapter on Fannie Lou Hamer is amazing and should be required reading for anyone who studies urban agriculture.
Nicole Aziz
Mar 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
so enlightening. never realized how much black farmers suffered and how much they impact entire black food justice. I had to read this for a research paper but it was super interesting
Robin Tobin (On the back porch reading)
Freedom Farmers expands the historical narrative of the black freedom struggle to embrace the work, roles, and contributions of southern black farmers and the organizations they formed. Whereas existing scholarship generally views agriculture as a site of oppression and exploitation of black people, this book reveals agriculture as a site of resistance and provides a historical foundation that adds meaning and context to current conversations around the resurgence of food justice/sovereignty mov ...more
Pam Dawling
Dec 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This book will fill the gaps in your knowledge of Black US agricultural history, with a mix of narrative and evaluation. Here you can read about people such as Fannie Lou Hamer, who set up the Freedom Farm Cooperative (FFC), offering a way for Black people of limited means to pursue self-reliance, health and a supportive community. Cooperatives offered an alternative to another wave of northern migration for African Americans – a way to stay in the South and help each other build a sustainable l ...more
Wisconsin Alumni
Assistant Professor Monica White

In May 1967, internationally renowned activist Fannie Lou Hamer purchased forty acres of land in the Mississippi Delta, launching the Freedom Farms Cooperative (FFC). A community-based rural and economic development project, FFC would grow to more than 600 acres, offering a means for local sharecroppers, tenant farmers, and domestic workers to pursue community wellness, self-reliance, and political resistance. Life on the cooperative farm presented an altern
There's so much we don't learn in school. This is a little bit academic - especially at the start. Skip the intro and it gets better.

The first chapter is comparing the philosophy of each of three great black men - George Washington Carver, WEB Dubois, and Booker Washington - as it relates to agriculture.

The rest of the chapters showcase various cooperatives that helped black farmers, especially in the sixties and seventies, mostly in the Deep South.

I learned so much about cooperatives and the gr
This book was unexpectedly fantastic. It has completely reframed my understanding of both agriculture and Black American history in a way that better incorporates Black farmers. It made me think differently about George Washington Carver as someone with a focus on restorative, sustainable agriculture.
Colin J.
Dec 11, 2020 rated it it was ok
While reading Freedom Farmers, I quickly realized that Monica M. White was describing a much larger and more advanced project than the small community garden in my hometown of 10,000. I found most of the book enlightening, interesting, and compelling. For me as a historian, the sociological jargon that dove into theories and frameworks, especially in the introduction, lost me at times and tempted me to abandon the book before I got to the first chapter. After the initial deluge, the book became ...more
Jun 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
It's been a few years since I've sat down to read an educational text on agriculture, so it took me longer to read than I would have preferred.

As a small farmer and a lover of history this book offers an enthralling perspective on the history of Black Americans and their relationships to agriculture, which has not always been one of slavery and exploitation. The author speaks of Civil Rights Era endeavors that connected people and communities to the land as a means of survival and political res
Hannah Duiven
May 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, 4-star-books
I read this for the TNFP book club this month and it will inform my relationship to my work and to food sovereignty as a whole in big ways moving forward. It was a helpful history lesson about the most important black voices in the world of agriculture and farming collectives, but more importantly I feel that it exists as a narrative of black joy, resilience, power, and collective action within farming - rather than the stories we often hear of the black experience of farming that is centered on ...more
Jun 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I got a copy of this in late September of 2019, because on Sept 26 I had gone to a talk Monica White gave about the black agricultural movement.
It was so invigorating, inspiring, hopeful and powerful that I remember the exact date, and reading her book is the same way. Freedom Farmers is a must-read for all Americans and anybody who eats food. It is moving and powerful and effectively communicates agriculture as resistance and a political tool, specifically for African American communities all
Jun 12, 2020 added it
Shelves: organising-power
Rewrites the narrative of agriculture as a site of oppression as one of resistance. Well-researched book! However, the analytical framework of Collective Action and Community Resilience (CACR) was not particularly meaningful. Resilience usually connotes a status quo to return to. Is there? Engages with James Scott's idea of "everyday acts of resistance", but only tangentially since the Black cooperative agricultural movement is probably more organised than casual. Still, very important work. ...more
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is an exhilarating, thorough, and thoughtful examination of recent coooperative endeavors in post Civil Rights black history. Ms White describes the pro agricultural narrative that has been overlooked and suppressed in retelling African American histories and the community connection with he land. She describes how these efforts are characterized by key strategies that support collective success for alternative economy among marginalized people that can be applied going forward.
Nov 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Brilliant introduction to Black agricultural cooperatives & food/ag resistance. A ton of history that is typically erased - the radical role of Black farmers in movements for freedom. Theory felt a bit like bookends surrounding historical description, but the history was incredibly rich & so valuable, especially given the lack of this narrative in a lot of conversations around liberation & broader food movements.
Maria Jose
An incredible project that connects insightful methodology, theoretical framework, praxis with Black American history in agriculture. Reading this book serves everyone. It has been instrumental in investigating questions about foodways and resistance efforts/movements in the US. Monica White's work is instrumental to understanding the impact of Black farmers in American and the oppressive systems Black agriculture navigated for Black Americans. ...more
K Kriesel
Mar 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
Very grateful for this book as a resource. It is very academic and dense, which I appreciate but I know that can push others away. Even though the book is very short, it would make an excellent book club read so members can help each other through the dense material over a month or two.

I listened to the audiobook, which Monica White reads herself. At times she reads too quickly and it can be difficult to absorb the weight of the material.
Sep 24, 2020 rated it liked it
This is a very important read, and I am glad that I had the opportunity to read Monica White’s thoroughly-researched book on the history of Black agriculture. I gave it three stars because I, personally, found it very hard to digest. I would have enjoyed it more as a mix of research and anecdotal accounts. I felt like I was reading a very long—very important, mind you—sociology essay.
Samuel P
Jan 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Examines the role of food security as a toll of liberation,very interesting an detailed peice covering our nations history and current challenges with oppressed groups and their means of agricultural independence.
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This fascinating read details the liberatory nature of black agricultural cooperatives throughout history. White clearly lays out how agriculture is a stealthy form of economic, political, and social resistance. I especially enjoyed learning about the history of black cooperatives and agriculture.
Nov 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: humans who think deeply
Monica White is a clear and brilliant writer who makes a subject she is passionate about easily readable and understandable. Her research always goes deep and her interpretations are right on. I highly recommend to anyone interested in food (that would be everybody) and systemic social justice.
Dec 27, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book was informative. I learned a lot about parts and pieces of history I didn’t know. It was at times a bit academic and not as easy to read, but overall very interesting. I read with a co-worker and we discussed each chapter. It was a good way to read.
Laurie LaDow
Feb 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I would give this 4.5 stars as an extremely well researched and well written scholarly book that can appeal to the general reader. Fascinating topic.
Elizabeth Erickson
Oct 02, 2020 rated it liked it
a thorough history of the role agricultural organizing played in efforts to free sharecroppers
Max Drury
Dec 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Amazing book, shows a history of Black cooperative agricultural economics as resistance and liberation
Sarah Coupal
Jan 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
This book taught me a lot about cooperative communities, especially in agriculture, and their role in the lives of African Americans after slavery.
Mar 23, 2021 rated it liked it
Great topic of Blacks in agricultural up to the present day. I recognize the need to have this history as part of the academy in order for it to be fully recognized, but the writing was too academic.
Jun 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Keiko Tanaka
Nov 05, 2019 rated it liked it
This is an important book for sure. There are many stories, which have not been written about. It is very well written and easy to read. This is a perfect book for undergraduate social science courses on food & society, race & society, social movement, etc. However, for graduate courses, this book lacks depth. Each chapter is very short. As a collection of “hero/heroine” stories, this book tends to idolize these individuals’ achievements while ignoring the voices of many individuals who made the ...more
Learned about WEB DuBois role in Black agricultural cooperatives. George Washington Carver is the actual father of sustainable, organic ag.

Focuses on Collective Action and Community Resilience as its framework for analyzing the Freedom Farm Cooperative (Sunflower County), the North Bolivar County Farm Cooperative (Bolivar County), and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives (Epes/Gainesville, AL). Large chapter on the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

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  Jordan Morris is a comedy writer and podcaster whose credits include @Midnight, Unikitty! and Earth to Ned.  The sci-fi comedy Bubble is his...
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