Race and Food: Agricultural Resistance in U.S. History

  • Isaac Sohn LeslieEmail author
  • Monica M. White
Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


United States agricultural policies have systematically disadvantaged farmers of color throughout U.S. history and today. The Alternative Food Movement (AFM) is redesigning food systems to improve human and environmental health damaged by conventional industrial agriculture, but is simultaneously reproducing racial disparities. The Food Justice Movement (FJM) is fighting to hold the AFM accountable for building food systems that prioritize racial and social justice. However, contemporary conversations of food justice/sovereignty and race, as areas of study, are often missing the important discussions of the long and rich history of farmers of color who have used agriculture as a means of resistance to systemic racial oppression. This chapter uses White’s (Freedom farmers: Agricultural resistance and the Black Freedom Movement. University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, NC, 2018) theoretical framework of Collective Agency and Community Resilience (CACR) to illuminate the resistance strategies of farmers of color in three key areas of racism in agriculture: (1) policies targeting U.S.-born Black farmers, (2) policies targeting immigrant Latinx farmers, and (3) AFM spaces and organizations. We argue that an understanding of race and agriculture, using the theoretical framework of CACR and its strategies of prefigurative politics, commons as praxis, and economic autonomy, provides a way to shift the discussion from one often seen through a lens of oppression to one that has the potential to move toward self-sufficiency, self-determination, and liberation.


Immigration Racial justice Food movement Food system Agriculture Sustainability 



Special thanks to Jane Collins and Luis Sánchez Artú for their valuable feedback.


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© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies and the Department of Community and Environmental SociologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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