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Collection Occupational Folklife Project

Multigenerational African-Descended Farmers of the Midwest: Surviving Erasure

Collection consists of 22 occupational folklife interviews conducted by oral historian Anna-Lisa Cox. The interviews document the histories, traditions, and experiences of older, multigenerational African-descended farmers in rural Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, most of whom are descendants of Black pioneers who settled this region starting in the 1790s. By the 1850s, these Northwest Territory states had over 300 thriving African American farm communities. Today only a few of these communities remain and this collection documents their important histories. The collection, which was inspired by the researcher’s previous historical research on these workers, consists of audio interviews supplemented by documentary photographs. Interviewees talk about their family histories, African American settlement of the Northwest Territories, and the rewards and challenges of contemporary farming.

Some of the interviews in the Multigenerational African-Descended Farmers of the Midwest project graphically portray the challenges that the farmers have met.  Listeners should be aware that they include rough language, racial epithets, and descriptions of racial violence, including lynching and rape. AFC presents these interviews in their original context and form, and asks that readers be sensitive to the people whose lives and culture are presented.

Go to Multigenerational African-Descended Farmers of the Midwest collection items