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4/11/00
I am originally from a small town in North Carolina. Our farm has been in the family close to 100 years. My grandfather, saved enough money to buy the farm from a white owner. The white owner agreed to sell him the land on time. Granddady put $800. down on the farm and agreed to pay $500. a year until it was paid. He went to the white man house and overheard him tell another white man, "I'll have the farm back from him in less than 3 years. When he looked around, he wanted to know how long he had been standing there? He told him not long. Then he went to an old school teacher who took him to apply for the Federal Land Grant money. My grandfather got the money, presented the check to the white man and he REFUSED TO TAKE THE CHECK. He eventually had to take it. To get even, the white people in the neighborhood got a truck full of white men and shot 10 of my grandfathers hogs. There was nothing you could do about it in that day.

Years later, the farm was passed on to my father, and uncle. As a little girl, I would go with my father and the people would never lend him enough money to operate the farm. (All six of the children was born and raised on this farm in the family house) They would lend him a small amount and send him down the road to borrow from someone else at a higher rate. Farmer's Home Loan told my father that he did not have to take out insurance on the land (so the loan would be paid for if he died) so when daddy died Farmers Home Loan tried to take everything including the house. They said that daddy owed $75,000 on the 26 acre farm. They sold it on the court house step AND WOULD NOT ALLOW THE CHILDREN TO BUY IT. A REAL ESTATE PERSON BROUGHT IT AND SOLD IT TO A DEVELOPER WHO SOLD TRAILER LOTS IN THE AMOUNT OF $12,500 each. It hurts us to see the farm turned into a trailer park. My sister refuses to come home any more. My brother had to buy the family home back and pay for the house another 20 years. My white lawyer in told me that Farmer's Home Loan might still come and take it. I told him, "No Way!" Some developer has made over $500,000 off our land that should have gone to us. Thanks to USDA.

We are a part of the the Black Farmer's Lawsuit, but $50,000 will never compensate for the hurt, shame and lost of income that we suffered. As we walked into the stores in that small town the White people would point us out and say, "There's his kids. Are y'all going to farm this year?" and laugh. We were humiliated. We were in our 20' and 30's. I would like to know the following:
  1. What group of lawyers would take this case to get back what we rightly deserve?
  2. What steps do I take now and who do I contact? I need names and phone numbers.

I AM HURT. I CAN NOT GO BACK TO MY ROOTS. There is a trailer park there. How can I share the good memories with my children and grand children? We need to bring closure. My parents and grandparents worked hard for that land only to have it fooled out of them by white people with the help of the United States government. I have a lot to say. Thanks for listening.





3/22/00
Fort Worth, Texas
Yes, I have lived on the farm. I am 53 years old and the best time of my life was doing those time in the country. I grew up in Fort Worth, Texas the city, however my grandparent lived in a small town (Mexia, Texas and Sandy Community) . I would live with them when school was out doing holiday and summer broke. My mother parent lived in town (Mexia) and earn a living working for white folk in their home and business. But my father parent lived 7 miles out in the country and farmed land they own which I own today. I personally do not farm the land, but I do have 15 horse and had cattle until 1994 which had to sell. Everbody living in this community is of the same family of 54 ex-slave who purchase some 15000 or more arces. Their is traces of farm life still in evident their. I have family members who plant feed and harvest at for their stock and to sell.

The land I have mean the world to me because my great grandparent went thought a lot ! to get and keep it. The land their mean a lot to everyone who came from this community. So much that to keep the white man from every getting it we, as a community, sell the land within the community if a need to sell come about.

I was 19 year old when I left home and move to L.A. to stay with family that had left the country. The Watt Riot and poor life style ran me into the Army and oversea. After Vietnan I came back and try L.A. city life one more time , It took 12 years to get home. Now I live and work in Fort Worth but on weekend I take my 100 mile drive to the farm to get my head stright out . It is home to me , people do not worry a nothing there and I can leave my house in country unlock for weeks at a time. Come back and every in place ,however I never left it unlock because I want to. But when I did someone would call to tell they will watch it. By the way this community ! I am from is the great great grandfather of the 19th of june in the state of Texas which we in Texas at as our 4th of july. It has the only State park issue for Black.





3/14/00
Wilma Fretz
Elmira, N. Y.
My mother died 2 yrs ago at age 93. I miss her and her storys. I have a tape with the sound of voice telling about her life in Georgia. "I grew up in Funston Ga. lived on a farm and worked hard. Played the piano at church and sewed my own cloths. No inside plumbing or running water. Married your dad my neighbor when he got out of the navy in l927. He was discharged in New York State so we took a train and came up north to live. How I missed home and my family. But with three kids to tend I stayed." My parents were white and good parents. I was born in 1929 and we were poor. Mom sewed our cloths on the treddle Singer sewing machine and we ate from the garden so we were never hungry. I remember one Sunday when three little kids were waiting to share one chicken and a old man came to the door asking for food. Mom told us kids to stand back and wait. She fixed him a plate of food and we watched him eat. When he was on his way we sat down and had our dinner. There was enough to go around. What wonderful memories. We lived in Montour Falls in Schuyler county most of our life. Most every day I think of my parents and my life as a child. What lessons they taught us by how they lived. Wilma





2/21/00
Memphis TN
This program bought tears to my eyes, because the subject is near and dear to my heart. I'm in my 40s and I was one of the last generations in my family to live on our land that has been in my family since the end of the civil war. The homesite is trash strewn and weed covered and for now still in the family. Most of my cousins stayed on that farm from time to time while their (and my) parents were struggling to make up north and out west. I learned how to hunt, fish, how to have respect for the land, how to care for animals, responsiblity for others and a work ethic that has served me well through some thin times. I have many times expressed interest to my family about moving back to the farm, and that appeal has fallen on deaf ears, and I fear that when my parents generation passes on, there will be no one in a position to save it. It is too small to farm for profit, but because of it's proximity to a large city, I thought it would make an ideal base for a small business, and the land could be developed for use by others in the family. My grandparents lived there most of their adult lives and it was a struggle and a sacrifice for them financially trying to farm the place. But, one thing that I will ALWAYS be grateful for is that several years ago, I went through some hard times, and that place supported me and my grandparents. To this day, I don't know what would have happened to me if it wasn't for that place and for that I will be always grateful. No one appears to see that value in the place (other than selling it) but me and a few other relatives. I'm doing better now and I would like to return the favor by developing the place SLOWLY (being very careful of debt like my grandmother preached to me, and because of some of the chicanery in some of the stories I saw on your program, and some things I went through later in life, I see where my grandmother was coming from.) There is a lot of mistrust, and infighting about that place and I'm resigned to the fact that the land several years from now will be auctioned, after my parents generation passes away. It will be a damn shame.





2/21/00
Yolanda
Oceanside CA
Between 1905 and 1908 my Great Grandfather moved his 12 children to Sylvester GA. Now a widower, he chose a wonderful farm to raise his family......alone. When we were little, we traveled from California to Georgia. I can remember the fresh bacon, ham, eggs, the yeast rolls, the biscuits and cane syrup....the long long picnic table that sat in the middle of the kitchen, so we could all eat at the same time, the fireplace in every room, the long long hallway where the pump organ stood, the peafowls prancing...... ...the outhouse still there that I would only use once!! After having not been there for 20 years, I began going back once a year 6 years ago. The first time I set foot on the farm again, I wanted to get on my knees and kiss the ground. It was as if all the souls of those gone before were there to welcome me back. Every year when I go back I am still overwhelmed by the feeling and one day God willing there will be those coming to visit me as I try to recapture some of what has been lost and gone. There are over 150 acres we still farm, the old house is still there,much worn, but liveable if need be. I pray for those of us who do not want to see the past forgotten and paved over.





2/4/00
Kenneth and Jerilyn Lee
Mount Olive, North Carolina
My husband and I are very fortunate -- we still live on and work the same family farm purchased by his great great grandfather after the Civil War. It is a 14 acre farm, raising Holstein, Hertford and Angus cows, hogs and grain, and we are still surrounded by a few other small family farms owned by black families. Of course, in this day and time, we cannot afford to be totally dependent on the farm for a living. Independent farmers are being bought out daily by large conglomerates. My husband and I are both college graduates, and he is a teacher by trade, but he made a decision to return to the farm after college and following his father's illness to continue a family tradition. None of his brothers chose to do so, but he just didn't want to see it lost to taxes, overgrown with weeds, or sold. So he teaches during the day, and runs the farm in the evenings and on weekends. It still gives me a strange feeling to walk over the land, knowing that four generations of Lees have walked over it before me, and I wonder what it must have been like for them, trying to hold on to the land and work through trying times and undesirable circumstances. I know they would be proud of my husband. We have three daughters, two of whom are college students and away at school, and no sons, so it is questionable how long this tradition will continue. Pray for us that four generations from now, this will still be Lee land.





1/31/00
St. Louis, Missouri
I spent eight years living in Alto, a farming community in Northeast Louisiana. My family members owned or rented land to farm. During harvest time all families pitched in to help each other. One year, maybe 1967 or 68, all the kids were taken to the fields and given huge long bags. We were given instructions on how to carry (drag) the bag. We were told that this was the last year they were going to hand pick cotton. Our parents and grandparents wanted all the children to pick as much cotton as we could and they were going to pay us. I suffered for about an hour under the hot sun. The bag was heavy, my fingers and back hurt. I carried my bag to the scale, so they could weigh it and I could get paid. My uncle sifted through my cotton bag and hung his head. He gave me a quarter and said "It good we getting a machine to do this, cause these children don't know nothing 'bout picking cotton. They picked mor' seeds, leaves, stems, than cotton.

My mother's description of what a typical cotton season was like in the late 50's: "Cotton was planted March or April and all summer you tended to it. Then in August you started picking it, that lasted until maybe November. Once the land owner got his share and other expenses were paid we got anywhere from $500.00 to $700.00 for the season."

Check out my web site:
http://www.stlcc.cc.mo.us/fp/users/jjohnson/family/index.htm





1/27/00
Zachary Brown
Woodville, Ohio
When my grandparents retired from farming and moved to town, the farm - complete with barns to play in, woods to tromp in and a creek to swim in - was no longer ours. We sadly watched as the new owner burned the barn, bulldozed the house and destroyed the place that was in our hearts. Living on the farm was magical. The sounds you heard made you listen, the food was fresh and the air was clean. Whenever you have something in life that gives you so much pleasure, you never want it to end. And although the structures are gone, the memories remain.

I think about the farm a lot. What it gave me has not been found anywhere else. My family doesn't look at it as what we lost, but the memories we have.







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