Agrarians: A group of twelve Southern scholars and writers, most of whom were faculty, students, or alumni of Vanderbilt University, who promoted agrarian regionalism. The Agrarians, who were active from 1928 to 1937, developed as an offshoot of the Fugitives, a group of Southern poets active from about 1915 to 1928 who also had major ties to Vanderbilt. Unlike the Agrarians, who pressed for political and economic reform, the Fugitives were a nonpolitical literary group focused on poetry and criticism. Only four Fugitives — Donald Davidson, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, and Robert Penn Warren — were also Agrarians.

The Agrarians were best known for their controversial manifesto I’ll Take My Stand (1930), a collection of twelve essays subtitled The South and the Agrarian Tradition which opposed industrial capitalism, advocated an agricultural base for the American economy, and provided the philosophical and ideological underpinnings of the “back-to-the-land” Agrarian movement. The Agrarians sharply attacked industrialism, criticizing the dehumanizing effects of science and technology as well as mass consumerism. Together, they privileged traditional Southern sociocultural values, such as family, faith, leisure, and a perceived special tie to the land, though they experienced substantial internal tensions over race relations and segregation.

Seeking a venue for their work, the Agrarians partnered with New York publisher Seward Collins on his American Review (1933—37), a literary journal that gave voice to a variety of political and economic ideas. Despite their disagreement with Collins’s own pro-fascist views, the Agrarians provided editorial support for the journal and contributed about seventy essays and reviews. Agrarian Frank Owsley’s essay “The Pillars of Agrarianism” (1935), which the group generally endorsed, outlined a set of specific reforms to promote Southern agriculture, including creation of a new homestead program, prohibitions against land speculation, measures to conserve soil and rehabilitate the land, and a constitutional amendment to divide the country into economic regions.

Members of the Agrarians aside from the four Fugitives and Owsley included John Fletcher, Henry Kline, Lyle Lanier, Andrew Lytle, Herman Nixon, John Wade, and Stark Young. While the Agrarians have often been seen as reactionary, concerns about the environmental and cultural effects of industrialism have sparked renewed interest in agrarian ideals, as seen in the work of writer and critic Wendell Berry.