Can you imagine living in constant fear and chaos 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? Being tormented relentlessly? Well that is how our ancestors lived. The time period was Post Civil War and Post Emancipation . Newly freed slave families were migrating to different parts of the south to settle and begin their new life of freedom. SO THEY THOUGHT! Several traumatic incidents occurred that would affect the economic success or downfall of the black tobacco farmer’s livelihood.
The incidences surrounding these freed people were often brutal, unfair, and in constant transition.
My forefathers were tobacco farmers in Trigg County, KY. Their life was very hard. First of all, coming into freedom, black folks did not have resources to buy supplies to even begin to farm. So if you didn’t have money to purchase the needed supplies, how would you get them? That’s right credit! Farmers would purchase their farming supplies and equipment on credit, thus putting them in IMMEDIATE debt. This dept, along with unscrupulous practices on the store owner’s part, weather conditions, and insect infestation produced little profit for the black tobacco farmer. In some instances the farmer’s life could be described as one of destitution. This meant that he and his family were so poverty stricken that they did not have the means to provide for themselves. Not a glorious life at all, but they did what they had to do in order to survive.
In Kentucky and Tennessee between 1904 and 1909, there was a period of feuding between the American Tobacco Company and the black tobacco farmers in this region. It was called the Black Patch Wars. The “Silent Brigade” or Night riders would go through the fields at night and destroy crops, livestock, and tobacco warehouses where the tobacco was stored and dried. This was a very intense period of time for the tobacco farmer and his family. He faced constant fear when these evil men would come and destroy everything that he had worked so hard for with an oiled soaked torch.
How did they accomplish this and overcome other obstacles standing in their way? It was God’s mercy, along with their strength, courage, resilience, and the knowledge of knowing where they had come from. This unshakeable desire to make a better life for themselves and their families kept them moving forward against the tide of injustice, prejudice, and racism.