Articulating agrarian racism: statistics and plantationist empirics

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Author: Brian Williams
Date: Spring 2017
From: Southeastern Geographer(Vol. 57, Issue 1)
Publisher: University of North Carolina Press
Document Type: Report
Length: 8,279 words

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In this paper, I focus on the 1908 book Studies in the American Race Problem, a collection of essays by Mississippi planter Alfred Stone and Massachusetts statistician Walter Willcox, in order to examine the ways in which agricultural industrialization was articulated as a racial project in the early 20th century. Notions o/development and competition in agriculture were closely tied to plantationist racial conceptions, and Studies in the American Race Problem evidences the articulation of white supremacist racial conceptions with liberal statistical practices which examined race as a population-level phenomenon. This agrarian epistemology, articulated as the interplay of individual racial deficiency and population-level demographics, provides evidence of an anti-Black investment in the notion of industry. Acknowledging anti-Blackness in the very genealogy of agro-industry, I suggest, provides a means to better understand subsequent agricultural development.

En este articulo, enfoco en el libro del ano 1908, Estudios del problema racial en America, una coleccion de ensayos de Mississippi plantador Alfred Piedra y Massachusetts estadistico Walter Willcox, con elfin de examinar lasformas en que la industrialization agricola se articula como un proyecto racial a principios del siglo 20. Las nociones de desarrolloy competencia en la agricultura estaban estrechamente ligados a concepciones raciales plantacionistas, y Estudios del problema racial en America evidencia la articulation de concepciones raciales de los blancos supremacistas con las practicas estadisticas liberales que examinaron la raza como un fenomeno a nivel de poblacion. Esta epistemologi'a agraria, articulada como la interaction de deficiencia racial individual y demograficos a nivel de poblacion, proporciona evidencia de una inversion anti-Negro en la notion de la industria. Reconociendo contra la negritud en el genealogia de la agroindustria, sugiero, proporciona un medio para comprender mejor el desarrollo agricola posterior.

KEY WORDS: whiteness, agro-industry, Mississippi, plantations, Black farmers.

PALABRAS CLAVE: blancura, la agroindustria, Mississippi, plantaciones, agricultores negros.


Located approximately 10 miles east of the Mississippi River, Stoneville is a bustling nexus of agricultural research and development. Though the village is small, it serves as a research center for industrial agriculture in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. The research complex has been a hub for agricultural science since 1905, when it was founded on land purchased by a group of planters led by Alfred Holt Stone (Bowman 1986, p 7). Even as Stone provided capital for the nascent Delta research station, he advocated for the development of agriculture as a proving ground of white superiority in the Delta. In Stone's publications, collected in the 1908 volume Studies in the American Race Problem, he often referenced his own plantation in an attempt to bolster his claims of white agrarian superiority.

Stone's purported expertise on race reveals little about "the Negro in the Mississippi Delta" (Stone 1908, p 81)--rather, I contend that his frantic obsession with proving white supremacy in agriculture provides a glimpse of the white supremacist violence and anxiety underpinning early 20th century agricultural research and development. Stone's writings are animated by white fear of Black autonomy, and the multiple violences underpinning the plantation project are evident in his...

Source Citation

Source Citation
Williams, Brian. "Articulating agrarian racism: statistics and plantationist empirics." Southeastern Geographer, vol. 57, no. 1, spring 2017, pp. 12+. Accessed 26 May 2022.

Gale Document Number: GALE|A491091746