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