Where Furrows Run Deep
Black farmers in the United States have been losing their land and going out of business at the rate of 1,000 acres per day; three times faster than the national average. In 1920, there were nearly 1 million black farmers owning 14 percent of all farms in the U.S. Today there are less than 18,000 owning less than 1 percent. Why? While the corporatization of the agricultural industry helps accelerate the decline of the small, family-owned farm, many black farmers claim they have an added burden: the institutional racism pervasive in local USDA offices. Delayed loan awards, lost paperwork, preferential treatment for white farmers, equipment being shot up, racist remarks and threats are still happening. In April of 2004, an African American man was found hung in rural Mississippi apparently while researching mineral rights on land his family had farmed over the last century.
In 1997 a class action lawsuit was filed against the USDA; Pigford v. Glickman (now Veneman). In 1999, a consent decree supposedly settled the case. According to the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, to this date, 40% of the claimants have not received their settlement.
I started this project while a graduate student at Ohio University in 1999. In an effort to expand the project, I spent the month of May 2001 camping and living out of my Grand Cherokee with my German shepherd Luna documenting black farmers in Ohio, VA, NC and SC. Initially, I meant it to be a visual anthropological account. A segment of our culture was disappearing and I felt it important to create historical records before that happened. Though its still about that, it has become much more. Its about a shattered American dream seen through the eyes of the black farmer.
I hope that with this sponsorship from Blue Earth Alliance and subsequent grants I will be able to bring honor and justice to so many who have lost faith in that dream. Blue Earth’s non-profit status extends to Where Furrows Run Deep. Thus, your donations are tax deductable.
This is so amazing!