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the Civil Rights Years


The 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision destroyed the constitutionality of legalized segregation in the South. The case polarized the country, heightening the fears of Southern whites and sparking the Civil Rights Movement. Sadly, during this period, the federal government actively perpetuated conditions that accelerated black farm loss.

A 1964 study exposed how the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) actively worked against the economic interests of black farmers. The USDA's loan agencies, such as the Farmer's Home Administration (FHA), denied black farmers ownership and operating loans, disaster relief and other aid. One practice was to deny credit to any black farmer who assisted civil rights activists, joined the NAACP, registered to vote, or simply signed a petition. The study further revealed that there had never been an African-American elected to a county agricultural committee - a structure established by the USDA.

After this shocking study, the USDA made sure blacks were elected to local and national level posts. In 1967, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund (FSC/LAF) was chartered by 22 low-income cooperatives to help African-Americans and poor people to produce a livable income and save their way of life. But these were small victories, and blacks still encountered broad-based discrimination. By 1969 black land ownership had declined to about 6 million acres, from its high of 15 million acres in 1910.

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