The plantation system had depended on slave labor. After the Civil War the slaves gained their freedom and plantation owners had ample land but little money for wages to pay people to raise the crops. At the same time the former slaves who were mainly uneducated needed farming related work. The sharecropping system of farming provided the solution and solved the problem. The sharecroppers provided the labor the plantation, and the farm owners, provided everything else - at a price.
Sharecropping Facts for kids
The sharecropping system was initially used by former slaves but poor white people also became sharecroppers. The Civil War had left many people without money or land - but they did have the skills to grow crops.
The system of tenant farming was suited to the Cash Crops such as cotton, indigo, sugar and tobacco in which surplus crops were sold at a profit.
The plantation landlord owned the land, cabins, the tools and equipment, the animals and the seeds to grow the crops.
The impoverished sharecroppers and tenant farmers owned nothing - everything was rented from the land and plantation owners.
The land owners often advanced the sharecropper families credit to meet their living expenses - interest was often charged on the loans.
Under the tenant farming system the Plantation landowners divided the farms and plantations into 20 - 50 acre plots that were suitable for a single family of sharecroppers to farm. In exchange for the use of land, a cabin, tools and supplies, sharecroppers agreed to raise a cash crop and give a share, usually 50 percent, of the crop to their landlord.
The sharecroppers had to sign a contract to agree to the terms of the landlord. The uneducated sharecroppers were often unable to read the contracts, which often included clauses in which the tenant farmers agreed to pay exorbitant interest rates - some of which were as high as 70%
In return for their work the sharecroppers and tenant farmers received a share (usually half) of the money made from selling the crops. However the terms of the contracts kept the sharecroppers in continued poverty from which there was easy means of no escape
Monies were deducted from the tenant farmers share. All debts and interest had to be repaid and the cost of the seed and any other expenses such as tools and rent were deducted.
Contracts included a 'get out' clause in which the landlords were entitled to evict the sharecroppers if they were unable to work due to sickness
The land owners were in charge of selling the crops and keeping accounts and records of any debts owed by the sharecropper. Sharecroppers and tenant framers had no control over which crops were planted or how the crops were sold.
The people who had no option but to work under this system had a hard life under the strictly enforced labor conditions of the landlords. The system resulted in a low standard of living for the tenant farmers and no hope of escaping the poverty trap.
In many cases, unfair contracts and unscrupulous landlords simply replaced the institution of slavery with the new scheme .
In some areas in the South the system of sharecropping and tenant farmers persisted into the 1940's.
|US American History|
|1866-1881: Reconstruction Era|