Conference Seeks to Empower Black Farmers, Landowners
Tuskegee, Ala.Increasing political awareness of African American land loss was the primary focus of a recent conference held at Tuskegee University. The conference, “Shadow Lands: Empowering the African American Farmer and African American Landowner,” was sponsored by the NAACP as part of the organization’s voter empowerment agenda.According to the conference literature, in 1982 the United States Civil Rights Commission declared that by the turn of the century — unless corrective action was undertaken in a dramatic way — the Black farmer would cease to exist. As well, in 1992 Black-owned farms fell to 2,498, a decline of 64 percent in 15 years.“While the specific reasons for the declines vary, they all have an underlying political solution,” said John J. Johnson, director of the NAACP programs department, in his greeting to conference participants. “The NAACP is committed to fighting against further erosion of land loss among African Americans and the elimination of the Black farmer.”The small conference brought together Black farmers and landowners, NAACP members from various state-level branches, agricultural extension agents, representatives from universities and state-level agricultural agencies and others in hopes of developing a course of action to stop the decline and educate African American landowners of their rights.Among action items discussed by the participants were building coalitions with various organizations, educating Black voters about land loss issues, developing training models for those who seek elected office, and developing “report cards” on the voting records of those in office. Participants also discussed the importance of collaborating with historically Black colleges and universities, especially considering their role in training those students for careers in agriculture.
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