Freedom Farmers

Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement

By Monica M. White

Foreword by LaDonna Redmond, Founder of the Campaign for Food Justice Now

208 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, 11 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-6389-0
    Published: February 2021
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-4370-0
    Published: November 2018

Justice, Power, and Politics

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Awards & distinctions

2019 Eduardo Bonilla-Silva Book Award, Society for the Study of Social Problems, Division on Racial and Ethnic Minorities

2020 Association for the Study of Food and Society First Book Award

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-reliance, and political resistance. Life on the cooperative farm presented an alternative to the second wave of northern migration by African Americans--an opportunity to stay in the South, live off the land, and create a healthy community based upon building an alternative food system as a cooperative and collective effort.

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 movements in urban spaces like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, and New Orleans.

About the Author

Monica M. White is assistant professor of environmental justice at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
For more information about Monica M. White, visit the Author Page.


“Writing consciously with an eye on the uses of the past for understanding the present and influencing the future, White recovers the lost stories of Black activists who worked to ensure access to adequate and nutritious food for low-income communities, promoted alternatives to capitalist economic exploitation, and demanded a voice in the decisions affecting their lives. Scholars of African American history, agricultural history, and urban history will find much value in this book.”--Journal of Southern History

Freedom Farmers stands literally as a landmark, ushering in a new era of community-based scholarship with and for agrarian justice. From here on out, scholars, activists, practitioners have a lodestar from which to research, practice, and advocate for food, farm, and racial justice: Dr. White’s framework of ‘collective agency and community resilience”—Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development

“This book will fill the gaps in your knowledge of Black US agricultural history, with a mix of narrative and evaluation. . . . Freedom Farmers provides an uplifting perspective, showing agriculture was not only a site of oppression and exploitation of Black people, but also one of proactive political resistance and cooperative effort.”—Virginia Association for Biological Farming

“An excellent model of using the past to inform the present.”—H-Environment

"Meticulously researched, trenchantly analyzed, and engagingly written, this book brings to life the culture, the theorists, the scientists, the farmers, and the organizers that have kept agriculture at the center of African American emancipation, civil rights, and present-day movements for human rights and self-determination. From a rising activist-scholar, a visionary book of remembrance and hope."--Eric Holt-Giménez, executive director of Food First

"A refreshing and potentially paradigm-shifting study, combining narrative and an interdisciplinary methodology that draws on archival research and ethnography. It moves the African American agrarian experience into the twentieth century, reconceptualizing it, not just as an experience of oppression, but as a strategic approach to black liberation."--Sundiata Cha-Jua, University of Illinois

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