Sharecroppers in the 1900s

Farmers Without Land: The Plight of White Tenant Farmers and Sharecroppers

By Charles C. Bolton

For much of the 19th and 20th centuries, Mississippi was an overwhelmingly agricultural state. While farming provided a route to economic success for many white Mississippians, a number of whites could always be found at the bottom of the agricultural ladder, working as tenant farmers or sharecroppers, a status more typically associated with black Mississippians in the century after the American Civil War.

Both tenant farmers and sharecroppers were farmers without farms. A tenant farmer typically paid a landowner for the right to grow crops on a certain piece of property. Tenant farmers, in addition to having some cash to pay rent, also generally owned some livestock and tools needed for successful farming.

Sharecroppers, on the other hand, were even more impoverished than tenant farmers. With few resources and little or no cash, sharecroppers agreed to farm a certain plot of land in exchange for a share of the crops they raised. The exact amount of crops the sharecropper gave over to the landowner depended on the agreement with the landowner.

The tenant/sharecropping system




  1. My father was born a “love child” in South East Georgia in 1929. He grew up Share Cropping with an alcoholic step father, making the experience all the more excruciating. At age 13, his mother died of infection three days after the birth of his youngest sister. His step father being too sick to work, Dad took over planting and harvesting the crops.

    At age 15 his real father sent word through a neighbor that he wanted to see him. His father, then married, took Dad into his home much to the chagrin of his wife. Dad left his younger siblings to be parceled out to relatives, his step father eventually took his own life with a single shot gun blast.

    After two uncomfortable years in his fathers home he joined the Army Air Corp in 1946 and prospered like so many young country boys of the era. He subsequently worked on the famous U-2 Spy Plane program and served in Vietnam. He retired twice, once from the Air Force and once from a non-profit, self help housing program founded by Catholic Nuns called Homes in Partnership.

    My father died three years ago leaving a legacy of kindness and charity to one and all. Out of his immense poverty and emotional pain came a great love for the humanity in each person he met. He is my personal hero, he set the standard which I can never attain.

    May He rest in peace.

    Liked by 1 person


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