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Environmental Ethics

Volume 26, Issue 3, Fall 2004

Kimberly Smith
Pages 267-286

Black Agrarianism and the Foundations of Black Environmental Thought

Beginning with the nineteenth-century critiques of slave agriculture, African American writers have been centrally concerned with their relationship to the American landscape. Drawing on and responding to the dominant ideology of democratic agrarianism, nineteenth-century black writers developed an agrarian critique of slavery and racial oppression. This black agrarianism focuses on property rights, the status of labor, and the exploitation of workers, exploring how racial oppression can prevent a community from establishing a responsible relationship to the land. Black agrarianism serves as an important starting point for understanding black environmental thought as it developed in the twentieth century, and for illuminating the connections between social justice and environmental stewardship.

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