Institute for Economic and Racial Equity

The Legacy and Impact of the Black Farmers Lawsuits

a photograph of a greenhouse in the middle of large farmland

The Institute for Economic and Racial Equity at Brandeis University and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives announce a new research partnership funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Over the next two years, both organizations will work with Black farmers and their descendants across the nation to understand better the impact of Pigford v. Glickman (1999) and In re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation (2011), a group civil rights lawsuit filed by Black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This project will be the first nationwide effort to understand the impact of these historic cases on farmers and their families.

The research teams, led by Tom Shapiro and Cornelius Blanding, will investigate the experiences of Pigford claimants during and after the case, with an eye towards policy and narrative today. The past two years have seen multiple grassroots and legislative attempts to foster equity in agriculture, including the Justice for Black Farmers Act and Section 1005 of the American Rescue Plan – Emergency Debt Relief for Farmers and Ranchers of Color, which conservative legal foundations led by white farmers are currently challenging in the court. This new research, focused on the experiences and voices of Black farmers, will lend clarity and urgency to the problems these proposed policies are meant to address. Beyond agricultural policy, the research teams believe that the Pigford cases offer insight into policies around cash transfers and reparations, as well as the way that harmful narratives affect marginalized communities.

Research Team

Thomas Shapiro

Thomas Shapiro

Research Professor
Heller-Brown 347

Sylvia Stewart, MPP'18

Sylvia Stewart, MPP'18

Senior Research Associate
Heller-Brown 360

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Tauren Nelson

Research Associate