Beyond Forty Acres and a Mule:
African American Landowning Families since Reconstruction

Edited by Debra A. Reid and Evan P. Bennett

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"This ground-breaking collection proves that there is still a great deal to learn about the lives of black southerners. The essays offer a counterpoint to the standard story that all African Americans in the rural South found themselves mired in poverty and dependency."--Melissa Walker, author of Southern Farmers and Their Stories

"A remarkable achievement. The authors in this collection have retrieved African American farm owners from the margins of history, making clear that life on the land for African Americans not only transcended sharecropping but also shaped the contours of the struggle for freedom and justice."--Hasan Kwame Jeffries, author of Bloody Lowndes

This collection chronicles the tumultuous history of landowning African American farmers from the end of the Civil War to today. Each essay provides a case study of people in one place at a particular time and the factors that affected their ability to acquire, secure, and protect their land.
The contributors walk readers through a century and a half of African American agricultural history, from the strivings of black farm owners in the immediate post-emancipation period to the efforts of contemporary black farm owners to receive justice through the courts for decades of discrimination by the U.S Department of Agriculture. They reveal that despite enormous obstacles, by 1920 a quarter of African American farm families owned their land, and demonstrate that farm ownership was not simply a departure point for black migrants seeking a better life but a core component of the African American experience.

Debra A. Reid, professor of history at Eastern Illinois University, is author of Reaping a Greater Harvest: African Americans, the Extension Service and Rural Reform in Jim Crow Texas. Evan P. Bennett is assistant professor of history at Florida Atlantic University.

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"Recommended." Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries

"Serves the discipline well in redirecting attention back to the land when examining African American life and culture. It also highlights the often-neglected landowners of color as individuals worthy of close attention, despite their minority status within American culture. The essays are solidly researched and written, and are of uniformly high quality. A very satisfying collection on every front." American Historical Review

"Presents the scope and complexity of landownership among black farmers following emancipation." Missouri Historical Review

"Provides a potent counter-narrative to the story of African Americans only as sharecroppers. These richly documented essays add depth and complexity to the little-known story of African American landowners." The Journal of American History

“Targets a startlingly understudied subject in both agriculture and African American history, proving how landownership and farming fostered empowerment, innovation, and pride among many black people, rather than representing agricultural life as another form of slavery, confinement, and oppression.” The Journal of Southern History

“Leaves the reader with a complicated and multilayered picture of black rural landowners in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries... the volume explores a range of topics, from historiography to black rural politics to the current challenges faced by black farmers.” Agricultural History

“Coheres almost seamlessly. Every essay touches on some aspect of black land-owning farming experience and does so in a thoughtful and analytically sound fashion.” Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas

“A credible text on African American landowners and farmers… this book adds another important layer to the intersection of race and class in the nation.” Florida Historical Quarterly

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