Debra A. Reid explains some of the reasons why the history of black farmers and their families remain understudied. Few scholars have committed to the painstaking research necessary to document black farm families' existence and explicate their pasts. Others hold stereotypes that bias them against rural subjects. Those who have studied black farmers often focus on the men who gained notoriety because of their economic success or involvement in political or social reform, and not on the women and children who provided significant labor to sustain the small and diverse operations. Paltry evidence makes it difficult to document the rank and file, the more than two hundred thousand black landowning families by 1920. Studies by social scientists such as W.E.B. Du Bois and Robert Browne of the Black Economic Research Center and arguments put forth in the 1990s class action lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture, all indicate the real threats that led to undercapitalized and marginalized farm operations. Yet knowing more about the farming communities that sustained farm families and the social, cultural, and political alliances that they made can help explain the activism that farmers engaged in historically, the discrimination that they faced, and reasons behind the rapid rate of land loss after 1920.
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