America's Deep South Forest 

"Grab this land! Take it, hold it...dig it, plow it, seed it, reap it, rent it, buy it, sell it, own it, build it, multiply it, and pass it on!"

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

These images are a part of a four year documentation of forestry outreach and rural wealth creation Initiative projects in the Deep South United States: Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Georgia. These are not images of forest – these are images of forest communities, made up largely of forestry technicians, local community advocates, and limited resource landowners. 

During the first half of the 20th century, millions of African Americans left the rural south for the prosperity and promise of the urban North, Midwest, and West. Despite this Great Migration, several Black farm and forestry land owners remained in the region. Since this time, African American land ownership in the South has steadily declined as the result of a wide range of discriminatory policies and practices. Outreach efforts have therefore focused on the needs and aspirations of under-served landowners by using land to create wealth, jobs and thus improve family and community well being.


Largely made up of local retiree volunteers, experts in the fields of natural resource and forestry, these ambassadors inspire their communities to hold onto their inheritance. Land is a family legacy, a story of courage and hope that was passed down to them through generations. It is the reminder and sometimes the sole connection thay have to their past.  "Land is something  they make no more of," I often would hear. 

Landowners gather at churches, community centers or simply on their own land to discuss and learn from one another. Activities include field days showcasing various forestry practices, workshops for educating and empowering youth about the natural world, and outreach meetings introducing landowners to various financial and technical assistance programs that are being offered by the government. These gatherings are always accompanied by Gospel singing, Soul food, and old stories about ones own land. 

During the first 18 months of the project, over 900 landowners in four states were reached by way of partnership with local community organizations and leaders. This project was funded by NRCS CIG and the Office of Advocacy and Outreach. 

Photographed for the National Network of Forest Practitioners (NNFP).  

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