Black Agrarianism: The Significance of African American Landownership in the Rural South

Katrina Quisumbing King*, Spencer D. Wood, Jess Gilbert, Marilyn Sinkewicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Agrarianism is important in the American mythos. Land represents both a set of values and a store of wealth. In this article, we ask how land matters in the lives of rural, southern, Black farmland owners. Drawing on 34 interviews, we argue that, since the end of slavery, land has continued to operate as a site of racialized exclusion. Local white elites limit Black farmers’ access to landownership through discriminatory lending practices. At the same time, Black farmland owners articulate an ethos in which land is a source of freedom, pride, and belonging. This we term “Black agrarianism.” They cultivate resistance to the legacies of slavery and sharecropping and contemporary practices of social closure. These Black farmland owners, then, view land as protection from white domination. Thus, we demonstrate how landownership is a site for the re-creation of racial hierarchy in the contemporary period while also offering the potential for resistance and emancipation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)677-699
Number of pages23
JournalRural Sociology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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