Discrimination against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights

By Pete Daniel

352 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 17 halftones, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-2207-1
    Published: February 2015
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-0202-8
    Published: March 2013
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4227-5
    Published: March 2013

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Between 1940 and 1974, the number of African American farmers fell from 681,790 to just 45,594--a drop of 93 percent. In his hard-hitting book, historian Pete Daniel analyzes this decline and chronicles black farmers' fierce struggles to remain on the land in the face of discrimination by bureaucrats in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He exposes the shameful fact that at the very moment civil rights laws promised to end discrimination, hundreds of thousands of black farmers lost their hold on the land as they were denied loans, information, and access to the programs essential to survival in a capital-intensive farm structure.

More than a matter of neglect of these farmers and their rights, this "passive nullification" consisted of a blizzard of bureaucratic obfuscation, blatant acts of discrimination and cronyism, violence, and intimidation. Dispossession recovers a lost chapter of the black experience in the American South, presenting a counternarrative to the conventional story of the progress achieved by the civil rights movement.

About the Author

Pete Daniel has been both a professor of history and a public historian. He has served as president of the Southern Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians, and he currently lives in Washington, D.C. This is his seventh book.
For more information about Pete Daniel, visit the Author Page.


"Read Dispossession. It's a riveting and timely account of the deleterious legacy of slavery. And despite the national interest in civil rights, not much competes with Dispossession."--Huffington Post

"Soberingly revealing the dark underside of an era hailed for black success against racism, Daniel's work exposes sickening, irreparable, racist destruction that compels reconception of popular memories of a generation of civil rights victories. This book belongs in any serious collection on U.S. civil rights, federal farm policy, or 20th-century America."--Library Journal

“Likely to stimulate renewed scholarly interest in 20th-century agricultural history, this fine book belongs in every academic library. Highly recommended. All levels/libraries.”--Choice

“Southern farmers struggled to keep up with changes in technology and policy, economics and politics, labor relations and out-migration. African American farmers bore the additional burden of crippling discrimination. . . . With customary passion, Pete Daniel methodically demonstrates that the USDA bears much of the blame. Dispossession catalogs decades of locally administered and federally sanctioned racism that permeated this powerful government agency’s activities within the South.”--North Carolina Historical Review

“The critical exposure of discrimination at all levels of government is both informative and provocative and is a welcome addition to the historiographical conversation.”--H-1960s

“Daniel’s Dispossession is provocative, beautifully crafted, and a fitting continuation of his tremendous contribution to our understanding of the fundamental changes in the United States’ agricultural systems during the twentieth century.”--Journal of American History