John W. Boyd, Jr. is a fourth generation farmer, the nation’s leading Black farmers advocate, as well as one of America’s most effective voices on civil rights, small and mid-size farms and agriculture (from safety to subsidies).
Boyd was named ABC World News Tonight’s Person of the Week and has been profiled by The Washington Post, The New York Times, CNN, Roll Call and many others. He is a frequent guest of national television and radio programs. And in 2010 he has appeared on CBS Evening News, C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, National Public Radio (NPR), among others.
Boyd is a past nominee for the NAACP’s highest honor, The Springarn Medal, and consistently ranks as one of Ebony Magazine‘s most influential African-Americans.
In 1995, Boyd founded the National Black Farmers Association after encountering the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s discriminatory practices first-hand and meeting many more Black farmers who shared this experience. Boyd soon led NBFA members in a march on the White House. He went on to meet with President Clinton and to testify before Congress.
He has helped put the plight of black farmers in the national spotlight, but his pursuit of justice continues to this day.
A Word from Dr. Boyd
Hello, my name is Dr. John Boyd. I’m a fourth-generation farmer, and my dad is a farmer. My dad’s father was a farmer, his father was a farmer, and his father was a slave. The farm that my grandfather had has been in the family for over 100 years and passed down from generation to generation. It’s been an uphill battle, not only for myself, but for thousands of other black farmers from around the country. Out here in these rural communities, most black farm families know other black farm families in the community. Most of us had family land. Most of us had generational knowledge of farming, grew up on a farm. We’ve endured discrimination, not getting any loans.
We were all struggling to hold onto our farms because we didn’t have any money. Some of them don’t have running water. Many of them don’t have telephones. In 1995, I said, “We can form an organization that addresses the needs and the problems of black farmers.” We went back and forth about the name. [Someone] said, “I think we should call ourselves the Minority Farmers Association.” And I said, “No, if they were looking at us from a group perspective as black farmers, why not call ourselves black farmers?” While we were having this discussion about the name of the association, [the electric company] turned my lights out. And Mr. Warren said, “Well, that’s settled. We’re in the dark. It’s black in here. We’re gonna call ourselves the Black Farmers Association.” And that was the end of the debate.
I wanted to see some type of vindication for the black farmers; I’m haunted by the faces. We lost so much land. I doubt if we’ll get all of our land back. I’ve been traveling the country, trying to do a wake-up call to Black America that land is power. People talk about education all the time; education is a big tool, and I agree. But land ownership is also a big tool. The three necessities of life come from land: food, clothing, shelter. Black farm families have to get their kids and grand kids to show some interest. If we’re going to make changes, there has to be somebody, one person, in that family that’s interested in farming.
The most troubling part of the whole story was my great-grandfather was able to obtain land after the Civil War, keep it, pass it on to a generation, and here I am, supposed to be a free man. Why can’t I live this life that my forefathers lived? Why can’t I obtain credit? The question is not why I stay in it. The question is, Why can’t I?