Growing up in the city of Detroit, Monica White, assistant professor of environmental justice in the Nelson Institute and assistant professor of community and environmental sociology in CALS, can remember the pride she felt for her family’s garden. Whether it was the warm, vine-ripened tomatoes from her grandmother’s indoor container garden, or the fresh, crisp vegetables from her father’s backyard plot, White saw that agriculture promoted freedom, health, and a sense of community. For White, this connection between food and the Black community began to grow into a research interest as she watched the urban agriculture movement expand. Throughout her research, she saw that Black communities often used the connection between food production and community-based food systems to bring people together. This fascination led to exploration, which led to a greater understanding of the role agriculture and food plays in a community’s success and their efforts toward community health and wellness. Earlier this month, her interest came full circle with the releases of her first single-authored book, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement.
A renewed look at the history of agriculture and its ties to the Black community, Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, combines historical analysis and first-hand accounts to expand the conversation surrounding agriculture as a form of resistance and its role in the current food justice and sovereignty movements in urban spaces such as Detroit, Milwaukee, Chicago, New York City, and New Orleans.
“To me, this book charts the use of food as a strategy for community development and community wellness,” White said. “Food production allows us to do so many things. For example, it brings us together. We use food to celebrate and demonstrate love. But, in moments, when people do not have access to healthy food, we see communities engaging in strategies of food production to change their lives and their children’s lives and to make communities whole again. So, I document the use of food as a strategy, historically.”