Article ID: CBB944344857

The Elevationists: Gerrit Smith, Black Agrarianism, and Land Reform in 1840s New York (April 2019)


This article tells the story of the attempt by Gerrit Smith to establish a farming settlement for free African Americans in the Adirondack Mountains of New York from 1846 to 1850. Smith was a white abolitionist and a founding member of the Liberty Party. Over the course of the 1840s, he became increasingly committed to the land reform movement, coming to believe that the small family farm was the key to lasting environmental health and economic prosperity. Smith’s settlement scheme represents an attempt to merge the racial politics of abolitionism with the environmental ideology of Free Soil agrarianism. His plan attracted the attention of some of the period’s most prominent black abolitionists, including James McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnet, and Frederick Douglass, who came to see farm life as a means to restore African Americans’ health after the damage wrought by slavery and racism. This article traces the discourse of agrarianism that took shape around Smith’s settlement plan, which saw farm life as being capable of elevating both the farmer and the land itself.

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Authors & Contributors
Claborn, John
Sparks, Randy J.
Johnson, Kenneth L.
Eric H. Walther
Knight, R. J.
Mooney, Katherine C.
Agricultural History
Journal of African American Studies
Journal of Southern History
Environmental History
Business History Review
American Quarterly
The University of North Carolina Press
University of Houston
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Yale University Press
University Press of Florida
University of North Carolina Press
African Americans
African Americans and science
Smith, James McCune
Delany, Martin
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
20th century, early
21st century
20th century, late
18th century
United States
Southern states (U.S.)
South Carolina (U.S.)
Arkansas (U.S.)
New York City (New York, U.S.)
New York (U.S.)

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