sharecropping, an agricultural system in which a landowner allows a tenant to use their land in return for a share of the crop produced. In the United States sharecropping arose at the end of the Civil War out of the plantation system. After the war, many formerly enslaved people established subsistence farms on land that had been abandoned or confiscated by the Union Army. But in 1865, under President Andrew Johnson, this land was reverted to its prewar owners. After the failure to redistribute land in the aftermath of the war, most workers, Black or white, did not own land. Thus, the system of sharecropping developed to meet the need of white landowners of labor for land cultivation and the need of poor farmers to survive economically. Lacking capital and land, formerly enslaved families (and many white families as well) were forced to work for large landowners and became sharecroppers.

On a typical farm under this economic arrangement, each family obtained supplies, seed, and food on credit from the landowner. They planted the seeds, tended the farm, and picked the crop. Once the crop was harvested, the landowner decided on a price and paid the family, but first the landowner deducted the amount they owed for the supplies, seed, and food purchased on credit. Sharecropping farmers typically received a fraction of the actual returns on their labor, depending on the contract. Even in ideal scenarios, the farmer's share might not cover total expenses. The result was dependency and debt for many sharecroppers. Because African Americans were prevented from serving on juries or voting, they had little opportunity for fair treatment in the legal system and thus had no effective way to challenge this economic practice. The sharecropping system did allow formerly enslaved people a degree of freedom and autonomy greater than they had previously experienced under slavery. For the first time, some Black families could divide their time between housework and fieldwork in keeping with their own priorities. But for many formerly enslaved people, some of whom worked the same land and under supervision of the same overseers as they had under slavery, sharecropping was like "slavery under another name."

See D. E. Conrad, The Forgotten Farmers: The Story of Sharecroppers in the New Deal (1965); A. F. Raper and I. D. Reid, Sharecroppers All (1941, rep. 1971); R. Coles, Migrants, Sharecroppers, Mountaineers (1972); T. Rosengarten, All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (1974); R. D. G. Kelley, Hammer and Hoe: Alabama Communists during the Great Depression (1990); D. E. Janiewski, Sisterhood Denied: Race, Gender, and Class in a New South Community (1992); E. Royce, The Origins of Southern Sharecropping (1993); E. Arnesen, ed. The Black Worker: Race, Labor, and Civil Rights (2007); S. A. Reich, A Working People: A History of African American Workers Since Emancipation (2013); M. M. White; Freedom Farmers: Agricultural Resistance and the Black Freedom Movement (2018).

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