Jim Crow laws pervaded the south, reaching from the famous "separate yet equal" facilities to voting discrimination to the seats on buses. Agriculture, a key industry for those southern blacks trying to forge an independent existence, was not immune to the touch of racism, prejudice, and inequality. In Reaping a Greater Harvest, Debra Reid deftly spotlights the hierarchies of race, class, and gender within the extension service.
Black farmers were excluded from cooperative demonstration work in Texas until the Smith-Lever Agricultural Extension act in 1914. However, the resulting Negro Division included a complicated bureaucracy of African American agents who reported to white officials, were supervised by black administrators, and served black farmers. The now-measurable successes of these African American farmers exacerbated racial tensions and led to pressure on agents to maintain the status quo. The bureau that was meant to ensure equality instead became another tool for systematic discrimination and maintenance of the white-dominated southern landscape.
Historians of race, gender, and class have joined agricultural historians in roundly praising Reid's work.
What Readers Are Saying:
“[Reid] places African Americans at the center of the story, showing how black activists struggled to improve the education and economic conditions of the race long after the boundaries of the Jim Crow system hardened.”--Melissa Walker, Converse College, Author of All We Knew Was to Farm: Rural Woman in the Upcountry South, 1919-1941
". . . excels at bringing to light the work of black agents in the Agricultural Extension Service in Texas, and fills a gap in the growing historiography of the African American's experience in Texas. . . raises important research questions, especially with regard to gender roles and the intersection of race, gender, and class in rural Texas." -Southwestern Historical Quarterly
“This splendid study regarding the African American Extension Service in Jim Crow Texas will take its place among the best studies in rural history in the past few decades. Prodigiously researched in many neglected archives and written in an engaging style, Debra Reid’s book deserves a wide audience. It is an important contribution to African American history and rural studies.” --Albert S. Broussard, Texas A&M University
“Offers not only vital contributions to Southern rural history, but equally valuable insights into the story of African Americans’ struggle for equality. Historians rarely look to the rural South as a venue for black political and social agency, but in Jim Crow Texas at least, agricultural extension services offered a path, albeit an accomodationist and conservative one, to social, economic, and civil progress.” --RWSA Newsletter
“Debra A Reid offers an outstanding history of the Texas Agricultural Extension Service’s Negro Division in East Texas…A compelling contribution, written with far more verve than histories usually manage...” --Jane Manaster, East Texas Historical Association
“Reid’s work is a welcome addition and a unique contribution to the literature on ‘Negro’ extension work.” --Journal of Southern History
“Reid’s work is thoroughly researched and well written . . . . Debra Reid has published a much needed work . . . .This book is a must read for those involved with the study of oppressed peoples and cultures.” --Western Historical Quarterly