Read the following passage:
A Sharecropping Contract (1866)
widespread desire for land, few former slaves were able to acquire
farms since they had no money and no way of getting money. Most ended up
as sharecroppers, working on white-owned land (sometimes land of their
former enslavers) for a small share of the crop at the end of the
growing season. The laborers below signed with an X, as they were
illiterate. This was common since remember it was illegal to teach
enslaved people to read.
“Thomas J. Ross agrees to employ the said Freedmen to plant and
raise a crop on his Rosstown Plantation … On the following Rules,
Regulations and Renumerations.
Tthe said Ross agrees to furnish the land to cultivate, and a
sufficient number of mules & horses and feed them to make and house
said crop and all necessary farming utensils to carry on the same and to
give unto said Freedmen whose names appear below one half of all the
cotton, corn and wheat that is raised on said place for the year 1866
after all the necessary expenses are deducted out that accrues on said
crop. Outside of the Freedmen’s labor in harvesting, carrying to market
and selling the same and the said Freedmen whose names appear below
covenant and agrees to and with said Thomas J. Ross that for and in
consideration of one half of the crop before mentioned that they will
plant, cultivate, and raise under the management control and
Superintendence of said Ross, in good faith, a cotton, corn and oat crop
under his management for the year 1866. And we the said Freedmen agrees
to furnish ourselves & families in provisions, clothing, medicine
and medical bills and all, and every kind of other expenses that we may
incur on said plantation for the year 1866 free of charge to said Ross.
Should the said Ross furnish us any of the above supplies or any other
kind of expenses, during said year, are to settle and pay him out of the
nett proceeds of our part of the crop the retail price of the county at
time of sale or any price we may agree upon-The said Ross shall keep a
regular book account, against each and every one or the head of every
family to be adjusted and settled at the end of the year.
We furthermore bind ourselves to and with said Ross that we
will do good work and labor ten hours a day on an average, winter and
summer. The time to run from the time we commence to the time we
quit…We further agree that we will loose all lost time, or pay at the
rate of one dollar per day, rainy days excepted. In sickness and
women lying in childbed are to loose the time and account for it to the
other hands out of his or her part of the crop at the same rates that
she or they may receive per annum.
We furthermore bind ourselves that we will obey the orders of said
Ross in all things in carrying out and managing said crop for said year
and be docked for disobedience. All is responsible for all farming
utensils that is on hand or may be placed in care of said Freedmen for
the year 1866 to said Ross and are also responsible to said Ross if we
carelessly, maliciously maltreat any of his stock for said year to said
Ross for damages to be assessed out of our wages for said year.
Samuel (X) Johnson, Thomas (X) Richard, Tinny (X) Fitch, Jessie (X)
Simmons, Sophe (X) Pruden, Henry (X) Pruden, Frances (X) Pruden, Elijah
Answer the following questions:
- In what ways does the contract limit the freedom of the laborers?
- Critics of sharecropping claimed it was “slavery with a paycheck.”
To what extent do you agree or disagree with this evaluation? Explain
- In what ways did sharecropping perpetuate (continue) the dependence of African Americans on white landowners?