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Sharecroppers

After the devastation left from the Civil War, many field owners looked for new ways to replace their former slaves with field hands for farming and production use. From this need for new field hands came sharecroppers, a “response to the destitution and disorganized” agricultural results of the Civil War (Wilson 29). Sharecropping is the working of a piece of land by a tenant in exchange for a portion of the crops that they bring in for their landowners. These farmhands provided their labor, while the landowners provided living accommodations for the worker and his family, along with tools, seeds, fertilizers, and a portion of the crops that they had harvested that season. A sharecropper had “no entitlement to the land that he cultivated,” and was forced “to work under any conditions” that his landowner enforced (Wilson 798). Many landowners viewed sharecropping as a way to elude the now barred possession of slaves while still maintaining field hands for labor in an inexpensive and ample manner. The landowners watched over the sharecroppers and their every move diligently, with harsh supervision, and pressed the sharecroppers to their limits, both mentally and physically. Not only were the sharecroppers just given an average of one-fourth of their harvest, they had “one of the most inadequate incomes in the United States, rarely surpassing more than a few hundred dollars” annually (Wilson 30). Under such trying conditions, it is not hard to see why the sharecroppers struggled to maintain a healthy and happy life, if that could even be achieved. Due to substandard conditions concerning sharecropper’s clothing, insufficient food supplies, and hazardous health issues, sharecroppers competed on the daily basis to stay alive on what little their landowners had to offer them.
Clothing is a necessity that is need throughout life for protection and comfort, especially in a lifestyle that leads one to have direct contact with the outside environment and a life in the fields. With the low income that a sharecropper and his family had to work with, being fashionable was not one of their top priorities. Even having sufficient clothing at all was a struggle for the family. The clothing that they did have was “coarse, crude, and not warm enough” (Gentry 138). The typical attire for men was “denim overalls”, and...

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...ed access to federal subsidies that were given to all farmers. These federal programs were administered locally by a small class that controlled the counties. If they said that their county didn’t have the need for these checks they were returned, or in some cases pocketed by the landowners themselves instead of giving them to the sharecroppers. (Kreisler internet)
Would the system of sharecropping have worked out to be more effective, had they been able to take advantage of what the government had offered them? The lives of southern sharecroppers were the result of a greedy and corrupt system. The sharecroppers lives were subjected to substandard clothing, insufficient food supplies, and rising health issues due to a lack of respect and care for the hardworking man.

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