The Blues Data Crop: The Gains and Losses of Black Farmers in America, 2016. Photo by Stefan Hagen. 

Research

My grandfather inherited land from his father and together he and my grandmother amassed nearly 300 acres of farmland that they owned or sharecropped in rural Louisiana during the 1950s. Then in the 1980s-1990s they lost nearly all of their land and were left with only 40 acres. I started to research and recover the gains and loss of my familie's land through research and art installation. 

What were the factors affecting their ability to maintain their land? Despite the fact that they attended the same meetings and voted alongside larger farmers in terms of policies, acreage allotment, crop prices, etc. my grandparents were unable to compete with their white neighbors. In my search for understanding I came across Pete Daniel's 2013 book "Dispossession: Discrimination against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights." In Dispossession, Daniel demonstrates how politics, acts, and intent of discrimination caused black farmers in America to lose their farmland during the mid-late 1900s.

What struck me about Daniel's book is his language. He doesn't sugar coat the reality behind the facts. There is emotion in his research. There is anger and frustration of knowing how much was taken from black farmers who had gained so much.