The Origins of Southern Sharecropping

The Origins of Southern Sharecropping

Edward Royce
Copyright Date: 1993
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Origins of Southern Sharecropping
    Book Description:

    Vivid primary accounts of post-Civil War life by planters and freed slaves complement this study of the rise of southern sharecropping. Edward Royce employs both historical and sociological methods to probe the question of why slavery was replaced by sharecropping rather than by some other labor arrangement. His detailed analysis illuminates conflicts between labor and capital as one group struggles to preserve the plantation system while the other pursues a quest for land and autonomy.

    Royce contends that southern sharecropping occurred through a "constriction of possibilities," that it was shaped by default rather than orchestrated by economic reconstruction by white landowners and black laborers.

    Highlighting the conflict-ridden nature of the process of social change,The Origins of Southern Sharecroppingincludes rich descriptions of the plantation system and gang labor, the freed slaves' dream of forty acres and a mule, the black colonization movement, the Freedman's Bureau, and racial relations after the war.

    In the seriesLabor and Social Change, edited by Paula Rayman and Carmen Sirianni.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0438-1
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Chapter 1 Southern Sharecropping and the Constriction of Possibilities
    (pp. 1-24)

    The slave labor force on the large antebellum plantation was typically organized into work gangs subject to harsh discipline and continuous supervision. This mode of labor organization persisted into the years immediately following the Civil War. Throughout the period from roughly 1865 through 1867, despite the abolition of slavery, the plantation remained the basic unit of production, the landlord maintained strict control over the labor process and work schedule, and workers and their families continued to be housed in centralized slave quarters. There were, however, significant differences between the postwar plantation system and the mode of labor organization under slavery....

  5. Chapter 2 Gang Labor and the Plantation System
    (pp. 25-85)

    In the years immediately following the Civil War the black labor force in the South found itself in familiar economic circumstances: employed by their former masters, organized into work gangs, placed under the strict supervision of white overseers, subjected to a slavelike work regimen, set to work cultivating cotton, rice, or sugar, housed in the antebellum slave quarters, and bound by a variety of rules and regulations governing everything from work schedule to deportment. The antebellum plantation system and gang labor had evidently survived the abolition of slavery.¹

    The postwar plantation system, which prevailed throughout the cotton South from 1865...

  6. Chapter 3 Forty Acres and a Mule
    (pp. 86-118)

    In October of 1865, the freedpeople of Edisto Island, South Carolina, learned that the land they had farmed during the war and now regarded as their own was about to be restored to its rebel owners. They sent a letter of protest to General O. O. Howard, commissioner of the Freedmen’s Bureau. “Land monopoly is injurious to the advancement of the course of freedom,” wrote a committee of three, “and if Government Does not make some provision by which we as Freedmen can obtain A Homestead, we have Not bettered our condition.”¹ This judgment reflected the sentiment of former slaves...

  7. Chapter 4 Economic Reconstruction and Southern Immigration
    (pp. 119-149)

    Blacks’ determination to gain economic independence jeopardized the future of plantation agriculture in the South. Their continuing refusal to submit to the plantation regimen and the concomitant scarcity of labor forced planters to consider an alternative possibility. For the first several years after the war, in an effort to buttress the plantation system, southern landholders sought to increase the agricultural labor supply by promoting Chinese and European immigration to the South. Through this strategy, planters hoped to diminish their dependence on black labor and, by putting freedpeopIe into competition with foreign workers, to pressure blacks into acquiescing to the plantation...

  8. Chapter 5 Economic Reconstruction and Black Colonization
    (pp. 150-180)

    Despite the scarcity of labor, southern whites in the immediate aftermath of slavery frequently advocated black colonization, the relocation of the black population outside of the South. “If any grand colonization project should be started,” a reporter for theNationwrote in 1865, “the Southerners would all favor it, as they say now all they want is ‘to get shet of them’; that is, to get them out of the country.”¹ Given the prevailing racial ideology in the white South, this was not necessarily a disingenuous or irrational reaction to the abolition of slavery. Many planters fully expected that free...

  9. Chapter 6 The Rise of Southern Sharecropping
    (pp. 181-222)

    The years following the abolition of slavery witnessed a confusing proliferation of labor arrangements in southern agriculture.¹ The most significant development in the postwar economy during this period of disorder and transition was the subdivision of the plantations as units of agricultural production. With this transformation, which began to occur as early as 1868, sharecropping and tenancy displaced the centralized plantation system favored by planters.

    Under the postwar plantation system, blacks worked together in gangs or squads, received standardized wages, and lived in the consolidated slave quarters. Sharecropping established a more decentralized system of agricultural production. The large plantations, previously...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 223-272)
  11. Index
    (pp. 273-280)