Sharecropping is a system of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced on the land. Sharecropping occurred extensively in the Southern United States during the Reconstruction era (1865–1877).
The South had been devastated by war; planters had ample land but little money for wages or taxes. At the same time, most of the former slaves had labor but no money and no land; they rejected the kind of gang labor that typified slavery.
The solution was the sharecropping system focused on cotton, which was the only crop that could generate cash for the croppers, landowners, merchants and the tax collector. Poor white farmers, who previously had done little cotton farming, needed cash as well and became sharecroppers.
The photographs below by photojournalist, Dorothea Lange, reveal the hard life of families who were sharecroppers in rural Georgia in 1937. She included the comments with the photographs.
Landless family of cotton sharecroppers, Macon County, Georgia. For their labor they receive half the crop they produce, and the equivalent of ten dollars a month “furnish” (credit) from the landlord. Their vegetable garden failed this year for lack of rain.
Sharecropper’s child whose father below receives five dollars a month furnish from the landowners. Macon County, Georgia
Father of landless family of cotton sharecroppers, Macon County, Georgia. For their labor they receive half the crop they produce, and the equivalent of ten dollars a month “furnish” (credit) from the landlord. Their vegetable garden failed this year for lack of rain.
Farm boy with sack full of boll weevils which he has picked off of cotton plants. Macon County, Georgia
The cotton sharecropper’s unit is one mule and the land he can cultivate with a one-horse plow. Greene County, Georgia 1937
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