In addition to being central to the PG-RNA’s new-society ideal, cooperatives had been an important part of other visions for true racial equality in the state. In 1969, in Sunflower County, Mississippi, the voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer helped develop the Freedom Farm Cooperative—the namesake of the beds behind Cooperation Jackson. In her 2014 book Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, Jessica Gordon Nembhard, a political economist who researches African-American collective economies, argues that co-ops have existed as a necessary counterweight to this country’s economic violence against black communities from the beginning of slavery here. “There seems to be no period in U.S. history where African Americans were not involved in economic cooperation of some type,” she writes. Cooperatives, though never a critical mass, have offered an alternate mindset, a means of insulating the economic participation of a group pushed out of the dominant system.
Cooperatives are a main tenet of the Jackson-Kush Plan. The framers of this new-society experiment viewed them as a way to help people unlearn the lessons their economy taught them and train them to be democratic in every aspect of their lives. They knew that the individual, foundational work of building buy-in for a whole new type of economy would be even harder than winning an election.
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