After the Civil War, former slaves needed jobs, and planters needed field hands. The absence of cash or an independent credit system led to the system of sharecropping.

In the South, many black families rented land from white owners and raised cash crops such as cotton, tobacco, and rice. In many cases, the landlords or nearby merchants would lease equipment to the renters, and offer items on credit such as seed, fertilizer, and food until the harvest season.

Cruel landlords and merchants charged high interest rates. Harvests were unpredictable, and tenant farmers fell deeply into debt. Laws favored landowners, forcing sharecroppers to sell their crops to the landlord. If they owed their landlord money, they could not move to a new farm.

About two-thirds of all sharecroppers were white, and one third were black. The sharecroppers organized a union for better working rights. The Great Depression, mechanization, and other factors lead to the end of sharecropping in the 1940s.

Source: Sharecropping
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