Below is a press release from the Mississippi Department of Archives & History:
On June 23, 2021, Robert Hunt Ferguson presented “Remaking Race and Labor in Rural Mississippi: The Saga of Providence Cooperative Farm” as part of the History Is Lunch series.
In 1938, hundreds of former Mississippi sharecroppers—both Black and white—settled at a Holmes County community called Providence Farm. “For the next two decades Providence was the site of extraordinary experiments in interracial cooperation, socialist economies, civil rights activism, and black liberation,” said Ferguson, author of the book Race and the Remaking of the Rural South: Interracialism, Christian Socialism, and Cooperative Farming in Jim Crow Mississippi.
After World War II many white residents left, and Providence Farm became the new hope for an increasingly Black-centered community less concerned with labor rights and more focused on local movements in education, religion, and civil rights. “The residents at Providence attempted to enact an alternate version of the rural South antithetical to the ubiquitous oppression endemic to the region,” said Ferguson. “By the mid-1950s violent backlash to the civil rights movement forced the closing of Providence. But for two decades the farm was a space of opportunity for the rural South’s poor in the Jim Crow era.”
Robert Hunt Ferguson in an associate professor of history at Western Carolina University. He earned his BA and MA from Western Carolina University and his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. His work has appeared in the Journal of Southern History, the North Carolina Historical Review, and Arkansas Historical Quarterly. Ferguson’s research has been funded by the Center for the Study of the American South and the North Caroliniana Society.
History Is Lunch is sponsored by the John and Lucy Shackelford Charitable Fund of the Community Foundation for Mississippi. The weekly lecture series of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History explores different aspects of the state's past. The hour-long programs are held in the Craig H. Neilsen Auditorium of the Museum of Mississippi History and Mississippi Civil Rights Museum building at 222 North Street in Jackson.