Author Natalie Baszile on the Past and Present of Black Farmers | ALA Midwinter 2021

Natalie Baszile discusses We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy.

The 2021 American Library Association (ALA) virtual Midwinter meeting, January 22-26, today hosted a talk by Natalie Baszile, author of We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy. The event was sponsored by HarperCollins. Baszile is also the author of the novel Queen Sugar, which has been adapted by Oprah Winfrey and will begin its fifth season on the OWN network on February 16.

Baszile began with a reflection on how her novel and new nonfiction work share similar themes, centrally, “Black people’s connection to the land from the Emancipation to the present.” Her maternal great-great-grandfather was a beekeeper, merchant, and farmer who owned a peach orchard in Alabama. That family connection, as well as her interest in history and current events, led her to spend much of 2019 traveling across the country meeting and interviewing Black farmers, amassing narratives from those new to farming, who call themselves the returning generation, as well as experienced farmers who created a family legacy and held on to their land for decades.

She also discussed the history of land loss, noting that by 1920 there were nearly one million Black farmers, who collectively owned 14 percent of the nation’s farmland, but today there are only 45,000 Black farmers, who collectively own 1.3 percent of the nation’s arable land. Baszile explores the historical and contemporary questions of how such a reversal occurred and the discriminatory practices that robbed Black people of their land.

Audience reaction was effusive. Many of the 722 attendees shared in the chat that they hoped the book would be reworked in a YA edition and listed how their libraries support the subjects of the book, offering community gardens, seed libraries, and agricultural and legal resources.

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