Black Farmers in America

Black Farmers in America

Brady McNamara, 2005


In 1920, black Americans made up 14 percent of all farmers in the nation, and they owned and worked 16 million acres of land; today, they account for less than 1 percent of the nation’s farmers and cultivate fewer than 3 million acres. John Francis Ficara spent four years photographing black farmers across America, witnessing firsthand the difficulties faced by families trying to continue living and working on their land. His book documents the struggle of black farmers at the end of the 20th century to preserve their heritage.

Working closely with the photographer, the designer chose to create a quiet and dignified portfolio of images. Using a palette of warm grays, the layout is simple—often just one photo per page with generous margins. With fine duotone printing on high-quality paper, the portraits become the primary design element.

Juror Notes

The success of this book flows primarily from the photographs, which have a powerful air of humanity and authenticity, and are here beautifully reproduced. There is nothing strong about this book—the type is simple and straightforward, and the images are simply centered on the page, but in this case the designer’s decision to step back a bit and let the material do the work was a right one. One of several university press books we admired; hopefully it’s a sign that there’s still room for good design and production values in a world where university presses are often under considerable budget pressures.

Collections: 50 Books | 50 Covers of 2005
Repository: Denver Art Museum
Discipline: Book design
Format: Book


Brady McNamara
Jacket designer
Brady McNamara
John Francis Ficara
Trim size
10.5 x 11.25 inches
Quantity printed
Brady McNamara
The Stinehour Press
Jacket printer
The Stinehour Press
Scheufelen PhoeniXmotion Xantur 100 lb. text, MeadWestvaco Sterling Ultra 100 lb., cover
Acme Bookbinding
Binding method
Hardcover, Smyth sewn
The University Press of Kentucky