The Sunday porch: Delta Farm

Front porch, Delta Coop Farm, 1937, Library of CongressThe front porch of a Delta Farm home, Hillhouse, [Bolivar County,] Mississippi,” June 1937, by Dorothea Lange, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (all photos here).

Delta Cooperative Farm was a privately owned and administered agricultural resettlement project for white and African-American sharecroppers evicted in the mid-1930s.

Founded in 1936 by several religious thinkers, educators, and organizers — including well-known missionary author Sherwood Eddy, who had $20,000 to spend from a follower — the enterprise avowed a commitment to economic equality among the races.

Over half of the first group of 31 farmers to settle at Delta were Black. All members worked together to grow cotton and cut and mill the land’s cypress timber.  All of them shared in the first year’s profits: $327 per family.

Delta Coop Farm houses, 1937, Library of Congress

The farm’s small houses had the same simple plan and amenities — “Screen windows and porches are uncommon in cotton cabins,” noted Lange — but they were segregated in two rows: one white, one African-American, separated by a road. And the children attended segregated schools.

All the families shared the produce of a 10-acre vegetable garden, however, which appears in the photos above to have engulfed the cabins.

And they all used the farm’s clinic, nursery, and library and attended the integrated cooperative meetings.  There had to be at least two Black members on the five-person farm council.

Delta Coop Farm, 1937, Library of Congress

At the start of World War II, the project lost members to wartime industry jobs and military enlistment, and, in 1942, the land was sold.

Four years before, in 1938, the Delta trustees had established a second inter-racial farm project in Mississippi — Providence Cooperative Farm in Holmes County. It operated until 1955, when its staff and residents fled after being threatened by the white citizens of nearby Tchula.  The empty land was sold the following year.

You can read a more complete story of the two visionary cooperative farms here.

4 thoughts on “The Sunday porch: Delta Farm

  1. USA still needs these ideas applied myriad ways. Government, now, seems afraid of these ideas. When they succeed, less control for them. Especially if it’s church founded.

    Kibbutz in Israel, why not USA? A lot of easy/obvious answers, would be interesting to know the harder/murkier answers.

    Great seeing the homes within the crops. However, cannot imagine how hot/uncomfortable they must have been in summer.

    XOT

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