Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in History (MA)

Degree Level





Jeannie Whayne

Committee Member

Calvin White

Second Committee Member

Jim Gigantino


Social sciences, Biological sciences, American south, Farmers, Landowners, New deal, Reconstruction


African Americans in the South were tied to the land during slavery and after emancipation. Many felt that land ownership was the key to freedom. For decades, black farmers strove for land ownership, in many cases falling prey to sharecropping and tenancy agreements in the meantime. Despite this drive toward independent farming, however, since 1920, there has been a steady decline in the number of black farm owners. This trend is especially prevalent in the Southern United States. The black farm owners who persevered through periods of economic, social, and political turmoil were able to, for varying reasons, navigate those systems more successfully than their counterparts. This thesis paints a portrait of the agricultural landscape from Reconstruction, when emancipated slaves made clear their desire to own land, to the beginning of World War II when the effects of the New Deal and the Great Migration solidified a black exodus from the land. This study looks at the causes and effect behind land retention in multigenerational black farm families, rather than land loss, which sets it apart from the existing historiography.