Sharecropping: Assessment

Figure 1.-- The photo was taken in Wake County, North Carolina (July 1939). This men and boys of this African American sharecropper family has returned home from the field for their lunch which the mother and girls had waiting . Source: Library of Congress LC-DIG-fsa-8b33814.

Some modern authors have likened share cropping to a new system of slavery. This is too simplistic an assessment. Sharecropping did allow land owners considerablke control over the lives of the freed slaves--but no longer absolute control. It is certainly true that share cropping posed very severe limitations on freed blacks. And that it developed as an explotive system. This was in large measure due to the monopoly of legal and extra-legal power by whites who enacted the Jim Crow system. Even so, the sharecropping system did allow the newly freed blacks for the frst time in their lives a degree of autonomy. Freedmen all over the South with teams of mules began dragging their slave cabins away from the centralized plantation slave quarters to their new fields. Modern authoirs often miss very real differences. The most important was the prtofound changes in black family life. Under slavery there was no legal recognition of family units. Some of the mosdt obscene aspects of slavery was theabuses imposed on slave families. Any member of the family could be sold off at any time. And women and children woirked the fields along with the men. Sharecropers could on a family basis divide labor. As a result, wives and daughters were lless involved in field work. They began to devote their energies to childcare and housework. These may seem to modern readers as very small gains. They were to the newly freed blacks very important achievemnents.


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Created: 10:52 PM 7/4/2009
Last updated: 10:52 PM 7/4/2009