Segments in this Video

Owning Land in America (01:59)


Women work in a field. Professor Darling discusses the achievement of blacks in 1910. We hear narration of men wanting to kill a person for selling his land to Georgians.

Family, Love, and Land (01:58)

Pete Daniel discusses the purchase of land by black people. Warren James is one of 18,000 black farmers in America. He lives in Montezuma, Georgia.

Purchasing Land in America (01:32)

Though the end of the Civil War opens the possibility for land reform, little of the land set aside by the Southern Homestead Act goes to black Americans. Listen to the response of one black man who recognizes the gross inequities.

Breaking the Land (02:43)

James Warren discusses a typical day on the farm. He needs a tire but is unable to purchase one. Professor Darling discusses ways that blacks were able to acquire land.

Turning the Soil Over (01:58)

The average black farmer makes $15,000 from income. James Warren hauls chicken litter to supplement his income. Charlene Gilbert recalls leaving Montezuma, Georgia. She shovels soil in a garden.

Black Farmers Struggle (03:06)

Some believe the Great Depression started in the South; 30 black banks failed between 1920-1930. Willie Mathis recalls what life was like. A.B. Brown recalls share-cropping and how difficult it was. (Graphic image)

Unfair Farming Practices in the South (02:01)

In the 1930s land owners receive subsidy payments. The Southern Tenant Farmers Union formed in Arkansas, meets violence. In 1937, Fred Mathis purchases a small farm. Charlene Gilbert's mother leaves Montezuma.

Land-Based People (03:56)

We hear a narration of black Americans leaving the South. Warren James uses irrigation on his farm. He discusses how weather affects his farm. Ralph Paige recalls the importance of church in homecomings.

Farming Options (02:25)

Warren James discusses his working days and explains the different farming seasons. He talks with another farmer about Bt cotton spraying.

Take Hold of the Land (03:02)

We hear a narration about perseverance. The Brown v. Board decision affects the issuance of farming credit in the 1950s. Ralph Paige discusses the importance of black owned land during the Civil Rights Movement.

Racial Discrimination in the South (02:56)

Leroy James recalls his attempt to secure money for his brother to go to college. The Mathis family recalls their struggle to get a loan. During the Johnson Administration, a report finds discrimination in every agency.

Raising Consciousness of Racial Discrimination (03:42)

We see archival footage of Clifford Hardin addressing discrimination. Robert Browne shares the Emergency Land Fund's discoveries about black land ownership, discrimination in tax sales, and rescuing black-owned land.

Protecting Land Ownership (04:17)

J.W. Mathis recalls a white man wanting to purchase his family's farm. Robert Browne discusses the importance of a will for land ownership. Charlene Gilbert recalls her grandfather's will.

A Family Farm (03:05)

We hear a recording of Fannie Lou Hamer discussing Freedom Farms. Charlene Gilbert plays cards with Warren James and his wife. Tina James discusses the associations she has with cotton and describes her husband.

Farm Crisis (02:44)

Shirley Sherrod discusses farm expansion in the 1970s. Weather, embargoes, and oil prices cause a farming crisis. Lynmore James and Stanley Brown recall expansion difficulties and supervised accounts.

Farming for the Love of It (02:13)

Warren James loves farming and motorcycles. Sammy Snow discusses the need for farmers to protect themselves.

Shady Bank Practices and Farming (02:58)

In 1982, the US Civil Rights Commission declares that the US Department of Agriculture is a catalyst in the decline of black farming. Leroy James recalls trying to pay off his loan with Farmers Home Administration.

Black Farmers Face Extinction (03:00)

We see several news clips about the disparity black farmers face and the promises to fix the issue. Warren James receives a loan from FmHA only after his claim is covered in the media. He works hard in the field to make his crop.

Saving Black Farms (02:32)

Charlene Gilbert meets a woman named Smitty who once lived in Montezuma and knew her family. Professor Darling shares what farmers said their farms mean. Cooperatives can save black-owned land.

Calling for Land Reform (02:03)

Pete Daniel discusses the US Department of Agriculture's practice in America. Warren James believes black farmers may become extinct. Charlene Gilbert tends a garden in the city; she reflects on the idea of returning to Montezuma.

Credits: Homecoming (01:18)

Credits: Homecoming

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3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



After the Civil War, Congress allotted 45 million acres of land to former slaves, but protest from white supremacists meant that little of it was ever actually distributed. Despite formidable obstacles, some one million African-Americans managed to purchase more than 15,000,000 acres of arable land by 1910. This program explores the history of those black-owned farms, from Reconstruction to the agricultural crises of the early 20th century and on to the era of federal loans and subsidies on which most farmers, black and white both, now depend. Director Charlene Gilbert weaves this history together with a portrait of her own farming family, who obtained their land in the 1930s only after the Farm Security Administration was forced to lend to African Americans. (56 minutes)

Length: 57 minutes

Item#: BVL49757

Copyright date: ©1999

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“A unique documentary. Viewers will learn how African American family, culture and community have been knit together since the days of slavery, from rural Georgia to inner city Philadelphia.”  —Gene F. Summers, University of Wisconsin-Madison    


“This film tells a distressing story but delivers an uplifting message. We’re all in this struggle together, whether displaced black farmers or downsized white workers.”  —Jim Hightower    


“A poignant personal, political, and historical mediation. It will teach, inspire, and empower us to correct the injustices which continue to plague black farmers.”  —Tera W. Hunter, Carnegie Mellon University    


“Watching this documentary elicits sadness, laughter, thoughtfulness, and a feeling of connection. It captures not only the struggle of the black farmer but urban black America’s remembrance of farm life and the South.”  —Gary R. Grant, Black Farmers & Agriculturalists Association

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