Ivy Talk - Black Agrarianism: Historical Lessons for the Present and Future

Hugh Carr for slider

It is easy to forget, and perhaps often intentionally ignored, that African Americans in the United States were first and foremost a people of the land, farmers. The life of Hugh Carr exemplifies how many black folks in the United States continued to live in the agrarian south. Hugh Carr was part of the Hydraulic Mills/Union Ridge community, and an examination of his life within this community provides essential insight into how the ancestors provided an oppositional consciousness-a way to think about life that could enable one to have positive self- esteem even amid harsh and brutal circumstances. Carr’s (as well as many of his contemporaries) legacy of self-determination and hard work continues to provide a living challenge to the enduring racist stereotype claiming that African Americans are lazy and unwilling to work independently without white supervision. However, an examination of the black agrarian lifestyle of individuals like Hugh Carr also illustrates a moral relationship with the land. This moral relationship resulted in the development of beloved communities where people looked out for each other and cared for one another. How did this form of blackagrarianism and beloved community develop? More  importantly, how can this framework previously designed by the ancestors assist currently and into the future? According to bell hooks working the land, nurturing life, caring for crops and animals, gave African Americans of the past a place to dream and hope beyond race and racism, beyond oppressive and cruel white power. What lessons can be learned from this past and how can they inform the present and future? More specifically, how does the study of black agrarianism inform us about our relationship to the land (sustainability), food systems, community development, and democracy?

Dr. Teresa E. Leslie is a scientist, community engagement specialist and educator. In addition to her published research investigating the interaction and delicate balance between people, the environment, animals, and pathogens, Dr. Leslie has authored books and articles that examine the inter-relationships between racism and classism, public/global health inequity and sustainable community development in both national and international contexts. From 2007-2013, she worked as a post doctorate fellow at the Naval Medical Research Center’s Viral and Rickettsial Disease Department, Infectious Disease Directorate in Silver Spring Maryland. Dr. Leslie worked for eight years as Director of the Eastern Caribbean Public Health Foundation and served for five years as President of the Board of (STENAPA), an environmental conservation organization. In both capacities she advised public health and agriculture agencies. Recently, she served as the Scientific and Educational Director of Baltimore VALUE (Vaccine Acceptance and Access Live in Unity, Education, And Engagement) at Johns Hopkins University.

She currently serves as the Director of Public Health Research at EcoRay, the senior education development specialist at Central Maryland AHEC, and a Public Health Associate at The Center for Religion and the City at Morgan State University.

This Zoom program willl be offered on December 6 at 6:30 PM. Register here: https://app.donorview.com/4POyb

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