Sharecropping - Definition, System and Facts

Sharecropping is a type of farming in which families rent small plots of land from a landowner in return for a portion of their crop, to be given to the landowner at the end of each year. Different types of sharecropping have been practiced worldwide for centuries, but in the rural South, it was typically practiced by former slaves. With the southern economy in disarray after the abolition of slavery and the devastation of the Civil War, conflict arose during the Reconstruction era between many white landowners attempting to reestablish a labor force and freed blacks seeking economic independence and autonomy.

Forty Acres and a Mule

During the final months of the Civil War, tens of thousands of freed slaves left their plantations to follow General William T. Sherman‘s victorious Union Army troops across Georgia and the Carolinas.

In January 1865, in an effort to address the issues caused by this growing number of refugees, Sherman issued Special Field Order Number 15, a temporary plan granting each freed family 40 acres of land on the islands and coastal region of Georgia. The Union Army also donated some of its mules, unneeded for battle purposes, to the former slaves.

When the war ended three months later, many freed African Americans saw the “40 acres and a mule” policy as proof that they would finally be able to work their own land after years of servitude. Owning land was the key to economic independence and autonomy.

Instead, as one of the first acts of Reconstruction, President Andrew Johnson ordered all land under federal control to be returned to its previous owners in the summer of 1865.

The Freedmen’s Bureau, created to aid millions of former slaves in the postwar era, had to inform the freedmen and women that they could either sign labor contracts with planters or be evicted from the land they had occupied. Those who refused or resisted were eventually forced out by army troops.

Black Codes

In the early years of Reconstruction, most blacks in rural areas of the South were left without land and forced to work as laborers on large white-owned farms and plantations in order to earn a living. Many clashed with former slave masters bent on reestablishing a gang-labor system similar to the one that prevailed under slavery.

In an effort to regulate the labor force and reassert white supremacy in the postwar South, former Confederate state legislatures soon passed restrictive laws denying blacks legal equality or political rights, and created “black codes” that forced former slaves to sign yearly labor contracts or be arrested and jailed for vagrancy.

These black codes provoked a fierce resistance among the freedmen and undermined support in the North for President Johnson’s Reconstruction policies. A Republican victory in the Congressional elections of 1866 led to the passage of the Reconstruction Acts in 1867, beginning a new phase of Reconstruction.

During this period, the passage of the 14th Amendment and the 15th Amendment granted African Americans the right to vote, equality before the law and other rights of citizenship.

Rise of the Sharecropping System

Despite giving African Americans the rights of citizens, the federal government (and the Republican-controlled state governments formed during this phase of Reconstruction) took little concrete action to help freed blacks in the quest to own their own land.

Instead of receiving wages for working an owner’s land—and having to submit to supervision and harsh discipline—most freedmen preferred to rent land for a fixed payment rather than receive wages.

By the early 1870s, the system known as sharecropping had come to dominate agriculture across the cotton-planting South. Under this system, black families would rent small plots of land, or shares, to work themselves; in return, they would give a portion of their crop to the landowner at the end of the year.

‘King Cotton’ Dethroned

The sharecropping system also locked much of the South into a reliance on cotton—just at the time when the price for cotton was plunging.

In addition, while sharecropping gave African Americans autonomy in their daily work and social lives, and freed them from the gang-labor system that had dominated during the slavery era, it often resulted in sharecroppers owing more to the landowner (for the use of tools and other supplies, for example) than they were able to repay.

Some blacks managed to acquire enough money to move from sharecropping to renting or owning land by the end of the 1860s, but many more went into debt or were forced by poverty or the threat of violence to sign unfair and exploitative sharecropping or labor contracts that left them little hope of improving their situation.

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Debt slavery

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Debt slavery, also called debt servitude, debt bondage, or debt peonage, a state of indebtedness to landowners or merchant employers that limits the autonomy of producers and provides the owners of capital with cheap labour. Examples of debt slavery, indentured servitude, peonage, and other forms of forced labour exist around the world and throughout history, but the boundaries between them can be difficult to define (see slavery). It is instructive to consider one prevalent system of debt slavery as a means of identifying the characteristics typical of the condition. This article therefore describes the system that existed among sharecroppers and landowners in the American South from the 1860s until World War II.

After the end of the American Civil War and the abolition of slavery, many African Americans and some whites in the rural South made a living by renting small plots of land from large landowners who were usually white and pledging a percentage of their crops to the landowners at harvest—a system known as sharecropping. Landowners provided sharecroppers with land, seeds, tools, clothing, and food. Charges for the supplies were deducted from the sharecroppers’ portion of the harvest, leaving them with substantial debt to landowners in bad years. Sharecroppers would become caught in continual debt, especially during weak harvests or periods of low prices, such as when cotton prices fell in the 1880s and ’90s. Once in debt, sharecroppers were forbidden by law to leave the landowner’s property until their debt was paid, effectively putting them in a state of slavery to the landowner. Between 1880 and 1930 the proportion of Southern farms operated by the tenants increased from 36 to 55 percent.

Indebted sharecroppers faced limited options. Racism and the legacy of slavery in the South made prospects for African Americans difficult after the Civil War, particularly because they represented the bulk of Southern sharecroppers. To gain freedom from their debt, farmers tried to make extra money in various ways, such as working on neighbouring farms and selling the eggs, milk, and vegetables they produced in addition to their main crop. Banks generally refused to lend money to sharecroppers, leaving them further dependent on landowners. An indebted sharecropper could continue to work for the same landowner and try to pay off the debt with the next year’s harvest or could begin farming for a different landowner with the debt built into the new contract.

Finding themselves deeply enmeshed in that system of debt slavery and faced with limited opportunities to eliminate their debt, many farming families ran away or moved frequently in search of better employment opportunities. In response, landowners employed armed riders to supervise and discipline the farmers working on their land.

Contracts between landowners and sharecroppers were typically harsh and restrictive. Many contracts forbade sharecroppers from saving cotton seeds from their harvest, forcing them to increase their debt by obtaining seeds from the landowner. Landowners also charged extremely high interest rates. Landowners often weighed harvested crops themselves, which presented further opportunities to deceive or extort sharecroppers. Immediately following the Civil War, financially distressed landowners could rent land to African American sharecroppers, secure their debt and labour, and then drive them away just before it was time to harvest the crops. Southern courts were unlikely to rule in favour of Black sharecroppers against white landowners.

Despite the limited options it offered, sharecropping did provide more autonomy than did slavery for African Americans. Sharecropping also enabled families to stay together rather than face the possibility that a parent or child might be sold and forced to work on a different plantation. Those advantages, however, were meagre compared with the poverty and other hardships generated by debt slavery.

The Great Depression had devastating effects on sharecroppers, as did the South’s continued overproduction and overemphasis on cotton production. Cotton prices fell dramatically after the stock market crash of 1929, and the ensuing downturn bankrupted farmers. The Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 offered farmers money to produce less cotton in order to raise prices. Many white landowners kept the money and allowed the land previously worked by African American sharecroppers to remain empty. Landowners also often invested the money in mechanization, reducing the need for labour and leaving more farming families, Black and white, underemployed and in poverty.

That system of debt slavery continued in the South until after World War II, when it gradually died out as the mechanization of farming became widespread. So too, African Americans left the system as they moved to better-paying industrial jobs in the North during the Great Migration.

Sharecropping and Tenant Farming in Alabama

Tenant Farmers Hoeing a Cotton Field Sharecropping and tenant farming were the dominant economic model of Alabama agriculture from the late-nineteenth century through the onset of World War II. Both terms refer to forms of agriculture conducted by people who did not own the land they worked. These landless farmers worked the plots of other landowners. Although the system reached its zenith during the era of Reconstruction, tenancy existed in Alabama prior to the Civil War. Sharecropping, in particular, can be traced back to some of the earliest written records. The tenancy system, which by the early twentieth century encompassed more than 60 percent of the farming population in the state, left a legacy of poverty and illiteracy that began to be overcome only in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Dogtrot House in Montgomery County, 1944 Sharecropping and tenant farming, usually grouped together under "tenancy," are not easy to define because the system that they describe was enormously complex. The terms encompass a wide variety of systems: At least seven varieties of tenancy were practiced in the United States in Alabama, however, sharecropping and cash renting were the most common. Sharecropping involves landowners renting land to someone else in exchange for a portion of the crop, usually one-third to one-half, depending on what the sharecropper brought to the arrangement. Cash renting, as the name implies, refers to a rental agreement between farmers and landowners. Cash renters were generally of higher economic and social status than sharecroppers. Lewis E. Parsons In July 1865, slavery ended forever in Alabama when Gov. Lewis E. Parsons issued a proclamation declaring all slaves within the state free. Emancipation was given stronger legal standing in September 1865 when the Constitutional Convention in Montgomery adopted an ordinance abolishing slavery within Alabama. Now free to move about where they wished, many of the newly freed slaves left the plantations and farms and moved to urban centers, crowding into cities such as Huntsville, Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile. Rumors of land and equipment giveaways, popularly known as "40 acres and a mule," were quickly revealed as false. Most freedpeople had to turn to charities and the Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands (generally known as the Freedmen's Bureau) for support, as did many destitute whites. Some people went in search of family members who had been sold during slavery. The black population of some cotton-producing areas, such as the Tennessee Valley, dropped by almost 10 percent, leaving fields uncultivated. As a result, land value depreciated and agricultural income became almost nonexistent. Alabama had been among the top 10 percent of the wealthiest states in the nation in 1860, a position it has never held since. Tenant Farmer in Walker County As early as the 1870s, most planters, newly freed slaves, and poor whites had accepted the sharecrop rental system as the answer to Alabama's farm labor problem. It was a compromise, but it offered poor whites a means of eking out a meager existence it gave freedpeople the semblance of the independence they craved and it offered planters the opportunity to return plantations to productivity under some degree of personal supervision. Another element of the tenancy system was that economic domination by white landowners also helped maintain supremacy over blacks and poor whites. Although farm tenancy did not become an official category in the U.S. Census until 1880, several census takers in 1870 recorded tenant farmers. Gee's Bend Cooperative Store Landlords supplied sharecroppers with seed, fertilizer, plows, and draft animals. The tenant farmer also had to be supplied with the necessities of life: housing, fuel, food, snuff, and overalls, items collectively referred to as "furnishing." Most tenants, especially sharecroppers, needed food and personal items advanced to them in order to manage until harvest time. Landlords usually had a small store or commissary to advance basic commodities, which they purchased on credit from merchants in towns. Landlords would take a mortgage on the unplanted crop (usually referred to as a "crop-lien") as collateral. Gee's Bend Farm, 1939 The way of life of most tenant farmers was inferior to that of many people in medieval Europe. Housing consisted of primitive log cabins or clapboard shotgun houses. Few homes had glass windows or screens most featured wooden shutters that could be closed at night and in inclement weather. Indoor plumbing was nonexistent water was provided from open wells or nearby springs and creeks, and bathrooms were outdoor privies located a few yards behind the house, creating serious sanitation problems. Another problem facing tenant farmers was poor transportation. Until the 1950s, virtually all tenant farms were located on unimproved dirt roads. In 1930, of Alabama's 257,395 farms, only 4,516 had access to hard-surface roads. Rain left unimproved roads impassable, and during dry weather, they were dusty, with deep ruts. As a result, tenants were generally isolated socially, and they faced economic ruin if the roads were unusable at harvest time. Plowing with Draft Animals in Pike County By the 1890s, tenant farming dominated Alabama agriculture. Whether white or black, sharecroppers produced more cotton per acre than any other category of farmer. But more cotton did not translate into more money. The crop-lien system had a tight hold on Alabama tenant farmers, and families were lucky to break even at harvest each year. Many of those who did make money chose to buy their own draft animals and equipment and become cash renters. Some even became landowners, but the majority remained trapped in debt peonage. Tenant Farmer Floyd Burroughs Likely as a result of the boll weevil and many other economic and social factors, including a desire to escape Jim Crow laws, blacks began to leave the South in large numbers in the early twentieth century. By 1915, hundreds of thousands of blacks were leaving the South for the North, in a movement known as the Great Migration. As a result, poor whites came to dominate the tenant system. Despite a drop in available labor, conditions did not improve for tenant farmers, and their plight came to national attention only through the efforts of novelists such as William Faulkner and works such as Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, a collaboration by author James Agee and photographer Walker Evans. Camp McClellan, c. 1918 By 1940, tenants made up only about 56 percent of Alabama farmers, and the number of sharecroppers had dropped to 30 percent. In addition to the New Deal, the outbreak of World War II caused a decline. As war erupted in China in 1937 and in Europe in 1939, war industries began to evolve and thousands of American farm boys, white and black, left the farms for jobs in factories. As the United States was drawn into the war in 1941, hundreds of thousands of male tenant farmers were drafted into the military. Of those who survived the war, few returned to sharecroppers' shacks. Many who did not go off to war found work in the military training camps and ordnance plants that sprang up across Alabama.

There was no way for sharecroppers, tractors, and mechanical cotton pickers to live side by side, and thus sharecroppers slowly vanished from Alabama's landscape. The 2002 Census of Agriculture lists a total of 62,572 farm operators in Alabama of this number, 2,063 (3.3 percent) were classified as tenants, down from 3,151 in 1997. The Census makes no mention of sharecroppers. Sharecropping left an important if dubious legacy in the state. The system helped to keep Alabama behind other states, both economically and socially, far into the twentieth century. But the rise of mechanization and modern farming practices that helped end tenancy have today made Alabama among the most agriculturally important states in the nation.

Fleming, Walter L. Civil War and Reconstruction in Alabama. 1905. Reprint, New York: Peter Smith, 1949.


When the Civil War ended, the big question concerned the state of the freed slaves of the South. Recovery of the southern economy depended on getting the freedmen back into the cotton fields. During the period of Reconstruction the Radical Republicans in Congress tried to convert the freedmen into small free-holding farmers, but the former slaves were simply not ready to manage their own farms. What emerged out of necessity was southern farm tenancy, a system of near slavery without legal sanctions.

Instead of working in gangs as they had on antebellum plantations, the freedmen became tenants. The planter or landowner assigned each family a small tract of land to farm and provided food, shelter, clothing, and the necessary seeds and farm equipment. When the crop was harvested, the planter or landowner took the cotton to market and after deducting for the "furnish" (the cost of the items the tenant had been furnished during the year), gave half of the proceeds to the tenant. This arrangement became known as sharecropping.

In the decades after Reconstruction tenancy and sharecropping became the way of life in the Cotton Belt. By 1930 there were 1,831,470 tenant farmers in the South. What began as a device to get former slaves back to work became a pernicious system that entrapped white as well as black farmers. After 1900 the number of white tenant farmers grew alarmingly. By 1935 nearly half of white farmers and 77 percent of black farmers in the country were landless.

As farm tenancy grew, a tenancy ladder evolved. From the bottom rung, the hapless sharecropper could climb to share tenant if he could accumulate enough of his own equipment and money. Share tenants kept two-thirds or three-fourths of the crop, depending on how much they could furnish. If a share tenant progressed to a point of needing nothing but the land, he could become a cash tenant by paying a fixed rental. Cash tenants kept all of the proceeds from the crop.

Unfortunately, tens of thousands of farmers fell down the tenancy ladder rather than moving up it. Some farmers lost their farms or their status as cash or share tenants because of crop failures, low cotton prices, laziness, ill health, poor management, exhaustion of the soil, excessive interest rates, or inability to compete with tenant labor. Many tricks of nature (drought, flood, insects, frost, hail, high winds, and plant diseases) could ruin a crop.

Sharecropping and tenancy remained accepted as a normal part of southern life until the Great Depression. Then the realization took hold that the tenancy system desperately needed reform. However, the early New Deal's agricultural programs brought no change. Based on drastic acreage reduction and benefit payments that went mostly to landowners, in actuality the programs were a disaster for tenants and sharecroppers. When planters and landlords reduced their acreage in production by 40 or 50 percent, they reduced their tenants by the same amount.

Although there are similarities, the story of tenancy in Oklahoma does not fit the pattern of southern farm tenancy. The differences are dictated by the unusual history of the white settlement of Oklahoma. By 1880 the American agricultural frontier was ending. Indian Territory offered about the last frontier for good farmland. Indian rule prohibited white land ownership. Nor could Indians lease their land to outsiders, but they could employ whites to work their land. Under the subterfuge of being employees, a flood of white tenants came into the territory in the 1870s, 1880s, and 1890s. By 1900 three-fourths of all tenant farmers in Oklahoma were white. Some of these early arrivals acquired ownership by purchase, connivance, or intermarriage, but a deadly combination of economic and natural forces kept most from climbing the agricultural ladder.

Between 1900 and 1910 the numbers of white tenants doubled. When the laws changed after statehood and non-Indians were allowed to buy land, tenancy slightly declined. However, in the adverse years of the 1920s, when agriculture suffered from low prices and overproduction, white tenancy rose again to nearly 70 percent. By 1935, with 119,615 white tenants, Oklahoma had the highest rate of white tenancy in the United States.

In the usual arrangement with share tenants in Oklahoma, the landlord received one-third of the grain crop and one-fourth of the cotton produced. The tenant had to provide most of the equipment, animals, and furnish. Realistically, farming forty or fifty acres on this basis was a prescription for poverty, especially when cotton prices plunged.

Tenancy did not necessarily equate with poverty, but in the southern tier of counties and in the triangle of Southeastern Oklahoma, tenancy devolved into much the same poverty-ridden system that existed in the Deep South and Texas. Landlords made tenancy arrangements by oral contracts for one year only. At the end of the year most tenants moved on in search of a better place. Landlords encouraged moving because it prevented the development of an established tenantry. Because of a constant surplus of tenants, or renters as they were called, at the end of the crop year landlords easily recruited new renters, often on terms even more favorable to the landlord. In 1920 fully two-thirds of all tenants moved from one farm to another.

Because this system of land tenure was so transitory, the landlord was required to provide nothing but the land. While this yielded a thin profit on very little investment, it was the road to disaster. Neither the one-year tenant nor the landlord had a reason to make improvements on the land or to practice conservation. Essentially, they mined the soil. Carried to its logical conclusion, soil mining would leave the land eroded and exhausted. Production would cease, and the landlords, the tenants, and the land would all be ruined.

Black tenancy in Indian Territory has a similar story. All of the Five Tribes had black slaves. When the tribesmen were removed to Indian Territory, they brought their slaves with them. By 1840 many cotton plantations existed in the Choctaw and Cherokee Nations, mostly in the fertile river bottoms of the Arkansas and Red rivers. Most plantations had several hundred acres in cotton and dozens of slaves to do the work.

The Civil War disrupted the plantation system in Indian Territory, and after the war most planters lacked money and manpower to resume operation. Post-war treaties between the U.S. government and the Five Nations required that slaves be freed and become citizens of the tribes with rights to land. Despite a delayed process, eventually most freedmen received land allotments of at least forty acres. While this kept them out of farm tenancy for a time, in harsh reality a forty-acre farm is not big enough to allow a farmer to get ahead. In all likelihood, many of the freedmen lost their small farms and did so for the same reasons that white farmers lost theirs.

In 1930 Oklahoma had 22,937 black farmers, 14,559 of them tenants. Compared to 180,929 white farmers, 110,770 of whom were tenants, the numbers of blacks are quite low. As only a few thousand Indian slaves became freedmen, it does not seem likely that all black farmers in Oklahoma were their descendants. Many must have migrated to Oklahoma as employees or tenants of Indian landowners, or later on as homesteaders or displaced tenants.

It is clear that the kind of plantation-oriented black sharecropping that existed in the Deep South after the Civil War never developed in Oklahoma. In fact, the number of black sharecroppers, only 4,560 in 1930, was quite small. Interestingly, there were 16,495 white sharecroppers at the same time. Generally, the black croppers and tenants had smaller farms that were less productive, lowering their standards of living and making their tenure on the land even less secure.

A growing national problem in the 1930s, southern farm tenancy ended abruptly during and after World War II. Government programs, mechanization, and their own inefficiency drove tenants from the land. Jobs and a better way of life lured them to urban areas. The well-known story of the Okies and their migration to California vividly illustrates the end of southern farm tenancy. Few Americans would mourn the passing of such a system.


David E. Conrad, The Forgotten Farmers: The Story of Sharecroppers in the New Deal (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965).

Sheila Manes, "Pioneers and Survivors: Oklahoma's Landless Farmers," in Oklahoma: New Views of the Forty-Sixth State, ed. Anne Hodges Morgan and H. Wayne Morgan (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982).

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Sharecropping - Definition, System and Facts - HISTORY

What the freed men and women wanted above all else was land on which they could support their own families. During and immediately after the war, many former slaves established subsistence farms on land that had been abandoned to the Union army. But President Andrew Johnson, a Democrat and a former slaveowner, restored this land to its former owners. The failure to redistribute land reduced many former slaves to economic dependency on the South's old planter class and new landowners.

During Reconstruction, former slaves--and many small white farmers--became trapped in a new system of economic exploitation known as sharecropping. Lacking capital and land of their own, former slaves were forced to work for large landowners. Initially, planters, with the support of the Freedmen's Bureau, sought to restore gang labor under the supervision of white overseers. But the freedmen, who wanted autonomy and independence, refused to sign contracts that required gang labor. Ultimately, sharecropping emerged as a sort of compromise.

Instead of cultivating land in gangs supervised by overseers, landowners divided plantations into 20 to 50 acre plots suitable for farming by a single family. In exchange for land, a cabin, and supplies, sharecrossers agreed to raise a cash crop (usually cotton) and to give half the crop to their landlord. The high interest rates landlords and sharecroppers charged for goods bought on credit (sometimes as high as 70 percent a year) transformed sharecropping into a system of economic dependency and poverty. The freedmen found that "freedom could make folks proud but it didn't make 'em rich."

Nevertheless, the sharecropping system did allow freedmen a degree of freedom and autonomy far greater than they experienced under slavery. As a symbol of their newly won independence, freedmen had teams of mules drag their former slave cabins away from the slave quarters into their own fields. Wives and daughters sharply reduced their labor in the fields and instead devoted more time to childcare and housework. For the first time, black families could divide their time between fieldwork and housework in accordance with their own family priorities.


Tenant farming is a system of agriculture whereby farmers cultivate crops or raise livestock on rented lands. It was one of two agricultural systems that emerged in the South following the American Civil War (1861 – 1865) the other system was sharecropping. The South in economic ruin, former plantation owners were now without slave labor and lacked resources to hire wage laborers. They began dividing up their land and arranging the tracts to be farmed by one of these two methods. In 1860 there were just under 700,000 farms in the South in 1910 the division of the former plantations resulted in more than three million farms.

A tenant farmer typically could buy or owned all that he needed to cultivate crops he lacked the land to farm. The farmer rented the land, paying the landlord in cash or crops. Rent was usually determined on a per-acre basis, which typically ran at about one-third the value of the crop. At the end of the harvest the landowner would be paid one-third the value of the crops or would receive one-third the crops directly from the farmer. While this system was superior to that of sharecropping and many sharecroppers aspired to being tenant farmers, the method also had its downfalls. Tenant farmers frequently found themselves in debt to the landowner. At the beginning of a planting season, the farmer would secure store credit based on the crop's expected yield. If conditions were poor or market prices for the crop decreased, the farmer became indebted to the storeowner and to the landowner (which was often the same person). Another consequence of tenant farming was the deterioration of the land since it did not belong to them, many farmers were not motivated to do ample upkeep or make improvements, thus, farms tended to deteriorate. However some tenant farmers proved successful and ultimately moved off rented lands to purchase their own tracts. Generally, however, this was not the case and the system, along with sharecropping, proved to be a failure.

See also: Reconstruction, Sharecropping

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Sharecropping is a system where the landlord/planter allows a tenant to use the land in exchange for a share of the crop. This encouraged tenants to work to produce the biggest harvest that they.

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Nov 21, 2018 · Sharecropping 11.21.18 Children of a sharecropper on the porch of their Montgomery County, Alabama, home in 1937. The exploitative system of sharecropping trapped many Black people in poverty for generations after the abolition of slavery.

Black Peoples of America – Sharecropping

The Civil War ended in December 1865 and the slaves were free. They hoped to be treated as equal citizens, being able to vote, gain an education and live peaceably and equally with the whites.

The former slaves hoped that the plantations would be divided among them so that they could provide for themselves but the plantations were returned to their former owners. Many former slaves did not want to work for wages because they would still have to do what they were told by the whites. The solution lay in sharecropping. Plantation owners broke up their estates into small parcels of land upon which the former slaves could grow their own crops. In return for seed and equipment, the sharecropper would give the plantation owner a third or a half of his crop.

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Sharecropping, form of tenant farming in which the landowner furnished all the capital and most other inputs and the tenants contributed their labor. The tenant’s payment to the owner was in the form of a share in the product or in cash, or in a combination of both.

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But the exploitative sharecropping system also helped ensure that the South’s economy became almost entirely dependent on a single crop—cotton—and an increasing number of Southerners, white and black, were reduced to tenant farming, working as laborers on land they did not own. A full transcript is available. Transcript

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