Though you might’ve been raised not to talk about politics at Thanksgiving dinner, food itself has always been political. The questions of who grows it—and for whom—are loaded, especially in the United States, a country that took its farmland from indigenous people and built its wealth from the labor of slaves. These imbalances of access and ownership have persisted through contemporary times, with food deserts and stagnating wages restricting what poor people eat.
On November 7, Harper’s Magazine and UNC Press presented a conversation between Rhonda Y. Williams, a historian and the series editor of UNC Press’s “Justice, Power, and Politics” books; Lana Dee Povitz, author of Stirrings: How Activist New Yorkers Ignited a Movement for Food Justice, about the history of food activism in the United States; and Monica M. White, author of Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement, which tells the story of Fannie Lou Hamer’s Freedom Farms Cooperative. In this episode, the three academics discuss historical and modern inequalities surrounding food accessibility and production, as well as the power of telling the long-obfuscated stories of farmers.