African-American History the Sharecropping System Term Paper

Pages: 8 (2461 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Sophomore  ·  Topic: Black Studies

African-American History

The Sharecropping system

The Sharecropping system was a labor agreement that was shaped by the situation in the South after the Civil War and by the mutual dependency between farmers and laborers. (the Sharecropping System) the Civil War of 1861-1865 brought an end to slavery in the country. However this also meant that many farmers in the South were left without labor to farm their lands. This situation was also worsened by the poor state of the Southern economy after the war." The Southern economy was in such shambles that in many cases they couldn't even afford to buy seed and farm implements, much less to pay hired hands" (the Sharecropping System) There were also many African-Americans still living on the land in old slave quarters. This resulted in an agreement between the farmers and the laborers, which in effect meant that they would employ African-American laborers on the basis of shared profits. In other words, ex-slaves and poor whites without tools, seed, money, or work animals would work the land for a percentage of the profit. The planter would "furnish" the land and supplies. The sharecropper would repay the planter a percentage of the money made by the crop.

Vickers)

In theory this system seemed to be functional and equitable, besides meeting an important social and economic need. However, in reality it was heavily weighted against the laborers, and particularly against African-Americans. One of the central obstacles to this system was the racial prejudice and discrimination that still persisted in many areas. "Southern ideology, however, enforced the social and economic realities that worked against the ex-slaves..." (Vickers) www.clt.astate.edu/sarahwf/elainrt/sharcrnv2.htm" in effect what occurred in many case was that the sharecropping system became "...a vicious, self-perpetuating system in which the workers became little more than serfs who were held to the land by debt, ignorance, poverty, and dependence on the landlord. (Vickers)

Many workers were still considered as a form of "property" by the land owners. There as an emphasis on subservience and poor pay. This was also made worse by the attempts to pass various laws such as the Black Codes. These laws resulted in the alienation of those African-Americans who were unemployed, which literarily turned them into vagrants. The laborer who tried to "... hold his labor off the market hoping for higher wages or better working conditions was also discriminated against and often arrested" (Vickers).

As a result the sharecropper system in reality did not provide the laborer with much more freedom than under slavery. In addition it was usually required that the African-American laborer could not leave the plantation or farm without the land owner's permission. (Vickers) There is also proof that the laborers were not fairly compensated. "High interest charges, emphasis on production of a single cash crop, slipshod accounting, and chronic cropper irresponsibility were among the abuses of the system" (Sharecropping).

There were various efforts made to adjust and change the sharecropping system to make it more equitable, but southern areas were extremely resistant to change. However the New Deal that way initiated in the 1930s was a step taken by government to improve the situation for sharecroppers.

2. The Great Migration

The Great Migration was in effect the movement of over one million African-Americans out of the rural Southern United States from 1914 to 1950. There were various social and economic reasons for this mass movement of people. One of the most obvious reasons was the move to escape the discrimination and racial prejudice that still existed in the southern areas of the country. Another was the more economic reason of the search for work and a between living environment.

It should be remembered that after the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, more than ninety percent of all African-Americans lived in the southern areas of the country - and many of these people lived in states that that had been former slave - holding areas. Other reasons for the migration included the boll weevil infestation of the cotton fields of the South that forced many sharecroppers to search for employment elsewhere in the country. There was also a boom in production and employment opportunities as a result of the Second World War, which also offered new opportunities.

The majority of those who migrated went to the large industrial cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Baltimore, as well as many others. The North saw a rapid increase in the African-American population during this period, with particular increases in Chicago, Detroit, New York, and Cleveland. It is estimated that between 300,000 and 1,000,000 African-Americans moved north during this period, "... largely in response to an increased number of unskilled factory job openings as northern manufacturers boosted production for World War I," and that, "More than 6 million southern blacks made the move to the North during this period" (the Great Migration: Blacks in White America)

The Great Migration resulted in changes to the racial composition of many of the major cities, particularly after the First World War. This can be seen in the fact that nine out of ten African-Americans lived in the South in 1910. This was to change society and also led to various social problems, such as access to housing which became a source of racial friction. In many cites there were residential segregation ordinances instituted to prevent African-Americans from living in white neighborhoods. (African-American Protests) These problems were to result in the African-Americans congregating in their own areas, which became "cities -within - cities," such as Harlem in New York; where 200,000 African-Americans lived in a neighborhood that had been almost all-white fifteen years before. (African-American Protests) This in turn was to initiate the cultural transformations and the cultural creativity that was to be known as the Harlem Renaissance.

Cultural and political movements

The links between the New Negro Movement, Marcus Garvey and the Harlem Renaissance is the common search for the acceptance of Black identity and the freedom to express this identity. The Harlem Renaissance was in essence a movement that expressed the cultural growth and the expansion of consciousness in African-American society.

New York became the centre of these movements for a number of reasons which were related to various historical concerns. These include the central issue of the migration of African-Americans to the Northern cities in the early part of the Twentieth Century and the beginning of a cultural resurgence and assertion of identity. This was accompanied and supported by new exciting forms of art and literary expression.

The movement of Southern blacks to Northern cities, the emergence of radical thought, and the publication of black magazines, set the stage for the creation of the great literature and art that was produced during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

McElrath J.)

New York became the centre not only of the African-American cultural renaissance but also of various movements aimed at social equality, civil rights and the recognition of cultural identity. These artistic and cultural aspects were evidenced by the emergence of internationally acclaimed writers and poets, such as Langston Hughes and may others, who used language and music to express African-American aspirations and suffering.

At the same time there were related movements and figures that fought for the recognition and acceptance of a common "Black" identity in a social and political sense. Some of these movements which were conjoined with the Harlem Renaissance had earlier origins. The term New Negro Movement had its origins in Europe in the late Nineteenth Century but became synonymous with the Harlem Renaissance. Central to the struggle for identity were the more radical figures and movements that fought as well for a sense of pride in a unique Black identity. For example, Marcus Garvey was instrumental in directing attention to the inequalities in society in terms of economic as well as cultural and racial issues. Garvey was a leader who was the founder of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, which promoted Black consciousness and heritage and the "return to Africa" in a cultural sense. This movement even "...promoted a steamship company that would provide transportation for blacks going back to Africa." (RASTAFARI: ACCORDING to the ENCYCLOPEDIA of AMERICAN RELIGIONS.)

In essence all these movements and figures are linked in terms of their emphasis on the expression of African-American culture, music and literature and in their resistance to discrimination and racial inequality.

4. The Great Depression

The Great Depression was brought about by the imbalance in the economy between rich and poor with "...0.1% of society earning the same total income as 42%..."(the Great Depression). This was also combined with overproduction of goods and increases in personal debt in the society. On October 29, 1929 the stock market collapsed and the Great Depression began and spread to the entire industrialized world. It was to last until the 1940s.

During this period African-Americans generally suffered more than other ethnic groups. For example, in Northern cities as many as six out of every ten African-American workers lost their jobs. (the Great Depression: A History… [END OF PREVIEW]

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