Sharecropping Facts

Sharecropping Facts
Sharecropping refers to an agricultural-economic system whereby a landowner leases the use of his land to a tenant farmer in return for a share of the crops, or money. Various forms of sharecropping have existed throughout history with two of the more well-known examples coming from ancient Egypt and medieval Europe. In Egypt, peasants farmed the lands, which were usually owned by local temples, for a share of the crops. In medieval Europe, the feudal system tied the serfs to the lands of their feudal lords, who paid their serfs a percentage of the harvest. In the United States, sharecropping became prevalent in the southern states after the American Civil War, when plantation owners were allowed to have their lands back but not their slaves. Although not economically viable long-term, sharecropping proved to be more efficient than slavery, although it kept rural blacks tied to the land in many ways and cotton as the south's primary cash crop. American sharecroppers were usually allowed to live on the land and farm it for a share of the harvest, usually half or one-third, depending upon if the tenant farmers owned any tools or livestock. The Freedman's bureau initially supported sharecropping as a way to employ newly freed slaves, but as time went on many whites became sharecroppers and actually outnumbered black sharecroppers in some places.
Interesting Sharecropping Facts:
Since sharecroppers were subject to the capricious whims of the landowners, volatile market forces, and unpredictable weather, they were often in debt, which could become generational.
Unlike with a slave based labor system, sharecropping encourages the farmer to be more industrious because the more he produces means the more he gets to keep.
Sharecropping probably originated near the town of Natchez, Mississippi.
Many of the famous Mississippi Delta blues icons, such as Robert Johnson, began their lives as sharecroppers.
After Reconstruction, poor whites began sharecropping.
Although cotton was the number one crop produced by sharecropping, rice, tobacco, and sugar were also farmed by sharecroppers.
Sharecroppers would usually buy their goods once a year on credit from the local general store, which was subject to changing interest rates.
By the 1930s sharecroppers in some states formed multi-racial sharecroppers unions.
Landowners and extremists, such as the Ku Klux Klan, were vehemently opposed to sharecroppers unions and often used force to try to stop such efforts.
The bull weevil epidemic of the 1920s cost cotton producers millions of dollars and led to many sharecroppers, black and white, to pull up stakes and move to northern cities such as Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland.
By the time the Great Depression hit in 1930, there were more white sharecroppers than black sharecroppers.
The land owners provided the sharecroppers with housing, which was usually a one room house located near the fields.
Sharecropping is still prevalent today in parts of Africa.
Mechanization of farm equipment in the mid-twentieth century was probably the major reason for the end of sharecropping, but the onset of World War II also played a role.


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