Tobacco has left an indelible mark on the American South, shaping the land and culture throughout the twentieth-century. In the last few decades, advances in techlogy and shifts in labor and farming policy have altered the way of life for tobacco farmers: family farms have largely been replaced by large-scale operations dependent on hired labor, much of it from other shores. However, the mechanical harvester and the H-2A guestworker did t put an end to tobacco culture but rather sent it in new directions and accelerated the change that has always been part of the farmer's life. In When Tobacco Was King, Evan Bennett examines the agriculture of the South's original staple crop in the Old Bright Belt--a diverse region named after the unique bright, or flue-cured, tobacco variety it spawned. He traces the region's history from Emancipation to the abandonment of federal crop controls in 2004 and highlights the transformations endured by blacks and whites, landowners and tenants, to show how tobacco farmers continued to find meaning and community in their work despite these drastic changes.
Evan P. Bennett is assistant professor of history at Florida Atlantic University, USA. He is a coeditor of Beyond Forty Acres and a Mule: African American Landowning Families since Reconstruction.