The Prairie Farms Resettlement Community in Macon County was one of several experimental planned communities established during the Great Depression by the federal government. It became home to 34 African American families, most of whom were displaced from land that later became the Tuskegee National Forest.
Beginning in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression, the federal New Deal promoted Land Resettlement to move farmers across the nation off worn out soil to new farmland.
The Resettlement Administration, and its successor the Farm Security Administration, established one of these experimental planned communities here in west Macon County, the all-African American “Prairie Farms.”
With more than 3,100 acres from two plantations purchased by the federal government, the resettlement plan included 34 farms, a community pasture, a community center and school, a store, and a home-site for the project manager.
The Prairie Farms Resettlement Project included four local families and 30 families from the Tuskegee Planned Land Use Demonstration in east Macon County. Each farmstead had a new house with electricity, a drilled well and sanitary privy, a barn, stable, poultry house, vegetable house, and pig pen.
Project manager Coleman Camp directed the diversified agricultural program based on livestock, especially hogs, vegetables, and hay and away from dependence on cotton.
The resettlement farmers organized the Prairie Farms Cooperative Association in June of 1937 and operated a store, canning plant, feed and grist mill, hay baler, tractor and plows, mowing machine and cane mill. It provided farmers a way to buy equipment and supplies, market crops and livestock, and gin cotton cooperatively.
The association managed the community pasture and cattle herd. The Tuskegee Institute Prairie Farms Laboratory School, headed by Principal Deborah Cannon (Wolfe), provided education for the surrounding community.
The school, supported by Tuskegee Institute faculty and students, consisted of a five-room building for grades 1-9, along with home economics facilities, a farm shop with tools, a health center equipped for examinations and treatment, a teachers’ cottage, a barn, and a playground.
The school doubled as a community center and a site for evening adult education and vocational classes. From 1944-1951, the U.S. Government sold all of the farm units to private owners.
written by Dr. Robert Zabawa, Tuskegee University