The Weekly Read for Saturday, January 21, 2023 is The Curious Case of Oscar Lorick: Race, Markets, and Militancy during the Farm Crisis, by Rebecca Shimoni-Stoil. The article appears in The 1980s Farm Crisis Reconsidered, a recent special issue of Agricultural History.
“In 1985 Oscar Lorick—an aging and illiterate Black farmer clinging to seventy-nine acres of land and burdened with massive debts—turned to local farm activist Tommy Kersey to help stave off foreclosure. The ensuing mobilization tied together the NAACP, Black church networks, white supremacist militants, corporate sponsors, a millionaire benefactor, and even the Atlanta Falcons in the ultimately successful attempt to save his farm. Lorick’s story serves as a point of departure to assert that the Farm Crisis facilitated the convergence of anti-federal and federal-skeptic ideologies, both radical and conventional, in the fertile ground of rural America. Relying on court records, news reports, and organizational documents, this article reconstructs a story that grabbed national attention during the Farm Crisis to demonstrate the importance of free-market narratives, racial discrimination, and the legacy of civil rights mobilization in understanding the complexity of agrarian activism in the crisis-era South.”
Oscar Lorick’s story remains inscribed in the countryside outside of Cochran, Georgia, today. The faded inscriptions read “Live Free or Die,” and “FED RES SYS” with superimposed prohibition sign. (Photograph by Bert Way, April 17, 2022.)
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