The United States was built on the agricultural strength and skill of Black slaves who knew how to farm. But even after slavery ended, Black people who worked as farmers have continued to face systematic barriers — and still do today.
A hundred years ago, 15 percent of farmers in the United States were black. Today, that number has shrunk to less than two percent. The decline is due largely to racism, financial discrimination and violence – a combination of obstacles that started with slavery and continues to dog business owners today.
By one measure, the loss of millions of acres of farmland since 1920 has translated into more than $120 billion in denied opportunities for black farmers and their heirs. Despite the challenges, many young African Americans are starting to return to farming. Some are eager to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors or to support healthier, sustainable living.
But the success of their endeavors still depends on many factors outside of their control.