Sharecropping played a vital role in the southern community in 1865 after the Civil War. The war had many negative effects on the Southern economy. Farms and plantations were in shambles and often ruin. Some also had been worse, getting as bad as being burned to the ground. Many of the very little railroad tracks around at the time had been destroyed. Freed slaves looked for jobs, as to land owners sought workers. Sharecropping was a common job sharecroppers had, they would get a fraction of the crops they harvested. This job position consisted of Caucasian and African American workers. A landowner would usually supply the farmer and the family with a house or an old slave cabin. The landowner would also supply farming materials and tools that were needed to get the job done. The total cost of these materials would later be deducted from anything the sharecropper earned for their hard work.With few resources and little cash, sharecroppers agreed to farm a certain land in for a small amount of crops they grew. An agreement made with the landowner determined how much crops they were to keep for themselves. This determined workers to produce as much harvest as they could so that it would ensure them holding their job. Many economic, social, and political issues led sharecropping to fade away in the 1940s.
When the South lost the war, bringing slavery to an end, Arkansas landowners and freed slaves then began negotiating. “Due to the Civil War, the entire South was engulfed in economic troubles associated with the abolishing of physical slavery; and plantation owners now had to pay wages to their workers.”The Freedmen’s Bureau set up schools for past slaves to find lost family and seek jobs. Owning land during this time period was the key to success; autonomy and economic independence. Because of the lack of skills former slaves had, most were only able to get jobs working on farms. “Unfortunately, the price of cotton began a long period of decline in the late 1860s, and many of those white yeomen who had staked their future on cotton production lost their farms.”They usually became sharecroppers when this happened.. “By 1900, 36 percent of all white farmers in Mississippi were either tenant farmers or sharecroppers The Freedmen’s Bureau wanted the freedmen to receive better treatment when sharecropping.” The Freedmen’s Bureau often offered suggestions on agreements for sharecroppers. These agreements generally didn’t work out because they were designed poorly, which led to the same misfortunate treatment. Most sharecroppers began the crop year needing to buy supplies, not only to help raise their crop, but also to keep themselves, and their families alive until harvest time. Many sharecroppers experienced bad treatment. They weren’t always given the correct amount of crops they raised and could not sell the portion they received. Landowners sold plant seeds and food for skyrocket prices. This was another form of their misfortunate treatment because it put the sharecroppers in debt. Most felt tied to the plantation and landowner because of their rising debt. This treatment was especially painful because it made released slaves feel enslaved again.
“Having a wage-labor economy was near futile, economically speaking – the entire South was in shambles, especially with regards to currency.” Money was in short supply and the banking system was destroyed. Planters struggled in economic situations because only select were able to use their demolished land as collateral for loans. Poor harvests only strengthened the problems as planters struggled to produce a sufficient amount of crops for hiring wage workers. The Freedmen’s Bureau was then established to support past slaves, manage deserted land, and supervise work contracts.”This South’s labor problem was not solved, as both planter and freedmen “had little initial idea of what the optimal labor arrangements would be.” Nowhere group was particularly fond of the new system, but the blacks made the sharecropping system less harsh.
During slavery, the black family unit was somewhat nonexistent due to the reality of separation of family through buying and selling of them. Women were taken for their husbands, and children were taken from their parents. After the release of slaves, many went to great lengths to reconnect with lost family members. Many went to advertisement in black newspapers to find their family. The focus on restoring their families led to the priority of serving the needs of the household before putting labor first. This was essential in the self-sufficiency that the freedmen sought from sharecropping.”Sharecropping, while influenced by black autonomy, was overall negative for black farmers as such a system “allowed the exploitation of the small farmer by the monopolistic financial structure dominated by the local merchant.””A landowner could provide loans to sharecroppers. Besides the law, contract provisions also hurt sharecroppers. Consequences could be extremely damaging if the contract terms assessed penalties for neglect on the sharecropper.
One thing that was problematic for black women in the time was that it was legal for fathers to practice corporal punishment against their daughters and wives. “Not only was the black woman afflicted by the negative economic effects of sharecropping in the form of debt peonage, but also by the social effects created by the sharecropping model’s tendency to empower and uphold black patriarchy.” This was an extreme emotional consequence of sharecropping that unfortunately affected the family as well as the worker.
The Agricultural Adjustment Act (AAA) of 1933 influenced numerous farm owners in the area to take a fraction of their land out of cultivation for funds provided by the government. This led landowners to get rid of their sharecroppers plots.”The AAA program was one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal measures designed to end the Great Depression.” This was made to help lower farm production and higher farm prices. “The AAA did provide Mississippi landowners with much-needed cash, and in the 1940s and 1950s, landowners used these funds to take advantage of technological advances that improved their ability to raise crops like cotton.” Landowners bought tractors, cotton harvesters, and chemicals to get rid of weeds in their fields. Mississippi’s sharecropping system abruptly came to an end after this.
Sharecropping eventually ended due to mechanization and the Great Migration. “The effects of the practice, compounded with slavery and the convict lease system, had a negative multi-generational impact on the black community as a whole.” Instead of working to acquire capital in economic development of the black community, it resulted in inaction that would only expand racial economic imbalance. “In the 1930s and 1940s, increasing mechanization virtually brought the institution of sharecropping to an end in the United States.” Due to small farms failing after the Dust Bowl, the sharecropping system increased.Traditional sharecropping declined after the new development farming machines. After the decline of sharecropping, many of the farmers jobs were lost so they moved to the cities to work in factories. Despite all of the negative consequences brought along with sharecropping, it rose the production of crops to make it one of the most economically stable times in early America.