“The Lazarus of American Farmers”: The Politics of Black Agrarianism in the Jim Crow South, 1921–1938

Jarod Roll

in Beyond Forty Acres and a Mule

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print June 2012 | ISBN: 9780813039862
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813043777 | DOI:
“The Lazarus of American Farmers”: The Politics of Black Agrarianism in the Jim Crow South, 1921–1938

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Jarod Roll explores the evolution of black agrarianism between the Great Migration and the Great Depression. He does so by analyzing the membership of Marcus Garvey's Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) and the National Federation of Colored Farmers (NFCF). He connects the two organizations, showing that members of the UNIA, predominantly landowners, shifted allegiance to the NFCF when the UNIA dissolved during the 1920s. He indicates that both organizations gained membership because of their race-conscious goals, but UNIA members, predominantly farm owners, believed that self-reliance and autonomy through landownership could save the race. The NFCF celebrated similar goals until economic conditions worsened. By the early 1930s NFCF leaders articulated a new agrarian protest rhetoric that emphasized labor as patriotic and worthy of national government protection. The NFCF, however, did not prosper, but the ultimate failure of the UNIA and the NFCF should not be considered proof of their irrelevance. Instead, studying the demise of one and the rise and eventual decline of another can help explain the contested nature of farmer politics during an era of farm consolidation and changing agricultural practices.

Keywords: Great Migration; Great Depression; Marcus Garvey; Universal Negro Improvement Association National Federation of Colored; Farmers; patriotic; Cooperatives; agrarian organization; autonomy; agrarian

Chapter.  9028 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of the Americas

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