Essay Analysis: Sharecropping, Bad or Not?
In the 21st century, the farming system in the U.S. is the most developed in the world. The US is one of the most developed countries in the world; it has the most developed cities: Washington D.C, New York, and Los Angeles. However, 150 years ago, America was a country that had sharp disagreements on race and with a chaotic farming system in such troubled times. After the Civil War, great changes had taken place in the farming system in the U.S, especially in the South because of the very different system in the economy busted into a civil war. At Southernmost labors the slaves were freed, the following new issues were different from the antebellum U.S. As the winner, the changes between the Northern which promoted the industrial capitalism and the freed slavery south were embedded after the Civil War was ended.
Sharecropping did not change the black people’s situation. Moreover, sharecropping has no way to lead African Americans to economic independence and autonomy fundamentally. The most popular question was, would the Black people go or stay? Where should the 4 million go or stay? The wave of abolishing slavery, capitalism creates a special group: The Sharecropper. What influence did the sharecropping make and whether the sharecropping good or bad for the black people? Who creates the sharecropping? Was the situation as President Lincoln said: “Go to the positive direction”? And to the U.S, what influenced the U.S and what was different between the sharecropping and slavery? The answer is negative.
So, what is sharecropping? Sharecropping was a system adopted by white landowners in the south through which free Blacks served as tenants. Landowners and tenants shared returns from agricultural production. They had the contract with the landowners and the landowners gave them money in return. It seems like they got complete freedom, but it did not Besides tenant farming, the system was dominant in cotton agriculture and especially in the South. It was extensively practiced during periods between the 1870s and 1950s. The system, however, disappeared since 1966 when Civil Rights and the Workers Union abolished Peonage (Forced Labor). This word, peonage, is borrowed from Spanish and pronounced as a peon, among both the blacks and whites. In fact, the peonage and the sharecroppers can be defined as almost in the same system, but the different names. “Peonage” was a term used in reference to debt. The system was such that laborers are attached to a landowner because of their debts. “Peonage is well thought-out as a form of slavery since the worker is basically forbidden from being independent.”(Hughes, Langston, and Rubel 67).
It was not easy to replace slavery as it had existed for a long time. The Post Civil War U.S was totally depressed. Because of the detrimental effect of the war on the south, the north had the mission to reconstruct the country because of the catastrophe to the land and the economy, not to mention the battlefield of the Southern. As a result, black people had a significant influence; indeed, 4 million people is a big number. The argument over the outcome of racism will never end; Stieglitz and Joseph suggest that racism affected the capability of black sharecroppers reaching the landowning level. The U.S government also enacted three Amendments: the 13th, 14th and 15th. They protected the black people using the legal tools on 13th, 1865, Amendment to the U.S constitution that saw a formal end to slavery was ratified. However, the Amendment could not be implemented immediately. The black people fought for freedom until the 1960s. It seemed that sharecropping became a common choice of black people. Furthermore, what is interesting is that most black people went back to their previous owners and made a contract with them to become their sharecroppers.
The U.S freed slaves and sharecroppers were not in a good situation though. After the Civil War ended, and then came the issue of settlement of these people (also including the small group of the white people). They have no chance to be employed, they could only engage the very low-salary jobs. Out of frustration, they did the job and made an unfair contract with the landowners. Because most factories are full of people: The structure governing worker-employer accord showed a multifaceted mixture of local laws, local customs, and debt servitude. Then the point shifted logically to my next point by including the lack of the necessary rules and regulations, the information about the external factors to prevent black people to freedom and maintain the sharecropping for most centuries.
Sharecropping is only recognized between the Northern and the Southern; although they granted freedom from slavery to African Americans, the federal government focused less to help freed blacks in the quest to own their land. Instead of having remuneration for working on their white masters’ land and having to submit the supervision and discipline most freedmen preferred to rent land for a fixed payment rather than receive the wages. By the early 1870s, sharecropping was dominant in agriculture in the Southern cotton plantations. Under the system, freed blacks lived in small plots of land or shares that were rented from their masters. As a form of earning, blacks would have a portion of the produce to their masters, at the end of the year. “Sharecroppers, similar to salary workers, had little or no physical capital, though they had more work experience. Lawfully, a sharecropper was a salaried worker who paid with a part of the crop.” (John 654).
As we see it, this kind of system restricted black people from the autonomy of the economy, freedom and basic civil rights. “The sharecroppers were not conversant with the law or any alternative they had to battle the unlawful acts that might be forced on the sharecroppers by the landowners” (James 640). Secondly; one of the sources to support the thesis is; the Ku Klux Klan, an organization that inflicted both mental and physical harm to the Black people and the black sharecroppers. Founded in 1866, the Ku Klux Klan (also named KKK) extended into almost every southern state by 1870 and became a vehicle for white southern resistance to the Republican Party’s Reconstruction-era policies that aimed at establishing political and economic equality for African American. Its members instituted a campaign aimed at inflicting intimidation and violence directed at white and black Republican leaders.
Despite the move by Congress to pass legislation to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal the reestablishment of white supremacy fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s. White Protestant native groups revived the Klan during the early 20th century. Civil rights movement of instituted during the 1960s promoted an upcoming of the Ku Klux Klan activity, including bombings of black schools and churches and violence against black and white activists in the South. “Though Congress passed legislation designed to curb Klan terrorism, the organization saw its primary goal, the reestablishment of white supremacy fulfilled through Democratic victories in state legislatures across the South in the 1870s. So the bloodiest one and the notorious organization were like disreputable” (History.com).
The external factor also includes the “White Sharecropper”, by the early 1930s there were 5.5 million that were white tenants, sharecroppers, and mixed cropping/laborers in the United States, and 3 million blacks. In Tennessee, whites made up two thirds or more of the sharecroppers. In Mississippi, by 1900, 36 percent of all white farmers were tenants or sharecroppers, while 85 percent of black farmers were sharecropping. During the period of Tennessee Agriculture, it was a vital institution for nearly over sixty years in the Post-Civil War period. The period peaked in importance during the early 1930s. At that time, sharecroppers managed nearly one-third of entire farm units in the state.
Next, the counter-argument to oppose the thesis statement is the following. In fact, sharecropping has a good beginning for black people. They began to accumulate the money, although it was not too much. The system was not slavery anymore and they were not used as tools anymore, they began to shift from the slaves to the free people. Forced labor was unnecessary to compel the work and this was the good beginning for them. Actually, they had no choice but becoming the sharecropper for the landowners. “Sharecroppers rewarded by giving the landowners a portion of the crop in order to farm.” (Grant 234). “This understanding suppressed the moral hazard problem for the landowners; the only monitoring necessary was to preserve their piece of land (James 640).”
To oppose the counter-argument and support the thesis statement, the information that sharecropping cannot help black people to accumulate wealth is provided; on the contrary, it restricts their freedom. How does it restrict their freedom? It is an unfair contract because the system rendered the South dependent on cotton. One crop economy compromised the economic performance of the south. When the price of cotton depreciated, most people at the South experienced financial challenges. Although sharecropping gave African Americans autonomy when conducting their daily work and social lives, it also freed them from the forced labor that was dominant in the post-Civil War period.
The system was dominant during the slavery era. It resulted in sharecroppers gaining ownership to the landowner (for the use of tools and their supplies, for example, some sharecroppers could not pay their debts). Although some free blacks acquire money to move from sharecropping to owning land by the 1860s, many more were indebted or they were forced by poverty to sign unfair and exploitative sharecropping rendered them hoping for an improvement on the situation. “Workers are attached to a landowner due to unpaid debt to the landowner by the employee” (Alston, Lee, Kauffman 188).
Thus we may conclude by saying that sharecropping was fought for a long time with the black people. Most of this practice largely disappeared in 1966 when Civil Rights and the Workers Union had abolished Peonage (Forced Labor). After the system collapsed, the sharecroppers engage in other jobs, factories, butcher shop, texture industry, etc. It was not only bad for the black people, but also bad for the poor white people, the immigration, and the peonage. It was a form of continuity for slavery and immature capitalism, thus we may say sharecropping was the bad option for the U.S at that period; it was a sort of development lag at that Age.
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