On the Right Side of Radicalism: African American Farmers, Tuskegee Institute, and Agrarian Radicalism in the Alabama Black Belt, 1881–1940


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation examines the history of African American farmers in the Black Belt of Alabama from 1881–1940 from a radical agrarian perspective. Approaching the topic from the perspectives of both organizations and individuals, it argues that Black row-crop farmers in Alabama who sought land ownership mounted strategic challenges to the totalitarian nature of racial control the plantation agriculture system in the South helped create and sustain. Thus, the dissertation situates those farmers within histories of Black radical intellectualism and agrarian radicalism. It also interrogates the few institutions and people those farmers depended upon to represent their interests and further their progress, including many leaders who shaped the agricultural programs at Tuskegee Institute. Using an interdisciplinary definition of radicalism, the dissertation reevaluates historical figures typically dismissed as conservative, unprogressive, or even apathetic and positions them instead as harbingers of change responsive to the needs of local Black farmers.