Sharecropping After the Civil War Reconstruction Facts and Information
After the American Civil War, Southern planters wanted to go back to the old system of using black labor working their plantations but pay their help wages. The freedmen (ex black slaves) wanted to own land and the crops they worked on that land. The freedmen approached the landowners with the sharecropping idea. The definition of sharecropping was to work the land and share the crop instead of being paid wages for the work. The crops would be sold and the profit split between landowners and laborers hense the term sharecropping. But to do so the freemen had to buy their own equipment and see as well as other things needed to survive until the crops were harvested and sold. So, they went to the country store or maybe the landowner and boroewed money or bought the necessary equipment and supplies on time using the crop as collateral. This is the definition of a crop lien. When the harvested crops were sold the lender was paid. The trouble with this system was the crops were not guaranteed because the success of the crops were depended on the weather. Natural disasters, draughts or floods could destroy crops. Prices fluctuated due to competition both foreign and domestic. These conditions made the sharecropper destined to perpetual debt. The sharecropper woud have to buy more seed for the next planting and hope the crop and the pries of the crop would pay for the mounting debts. Landowners who granted the loans, would insist on the crops (cotton in particular) being processed through their cotton gins or other equipment if applicable. This added to the costs of the sharecropper. However, the goal and dream of the sharecropper was to eventually become a landowner.
The next step up from sharecropping was tenant farming where the farmer rented his land from the landowner. He too had to resort to the crop lien to make a living. The goal was to own his own land. The difference between the tenant farmer and the sharecropper was the tenant farmer did not share his crop. The profits from the tenant farmer's crop was his to keep.
The problem with the crop lien kept both the sharecropper and the tenant farmer in propetual debt. They could never rise above because the crop was never guaranteed. Eventually, tenant farmers slipped into sharecropping. Those who owned their own land in the beginning slipped into tenant farming.
The signifigance of sharecropping and the crop lien was Blacks started the sharecropping idea. The concept spread and poor whites started sharecropping. The crop lien caused perpetual debt. It widened the gap between rich and poor. The south especially the deep south remains to be the poorest areas of the nation. The deep south used sharecropping and the crop lien system more so than any other area of the country.