David Snider of The Photography Channel has produced a video, “Distant Echoes,” which deals with the exceptional hardships faced by black farmers in America, featuring the photographs and narration of photojournalist and NPPA member John Francis Ficara. “Distant Echoes” is now featured on Google’s Video Blog.
Ficara spent five years photographing black farmers around American and his essay about them won the NPPA-Nikon Sabbatical Grant in 2001. The work has just been an exhibit in Baltimore and published as a book, Black Farmers In America, and the photographs and Ficara’s words have now been produced in this new video format by Snider.
Since the 1920s black American farmers have lost 98% percent of their farms. Ficara’s book says that black Americans made up 14 percent of all farmers in 1920 and worked 16 million acres of land, but that today black farmers are less than 1 percent of the nation’s farmers and are working on less than 3 million acres. Changing technology, globalization, an aging workforce, racist lending policies, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture itself each contributed, in some way, to the demise of the black farmer in America, the book says, creating “a staggering story of human loss: when each farm closed, those farmers, their spouses, children, grandchildren, and the people they hired, all had to leave a way of life that had existed in their families for generations.”
Snider’s new video “Distant Echoes” can be seen here.