MOOC | Origins of Sharecropping | The Civil War and Reconstruction, 1865-1890 | 3.6.4

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Who'' s right, who ' s incorrect? It'' s not like slavery in that, putting aside that you ' re'not a slave, there ' s no overseer informing you'what to do, you ' re not working in a gang with other people.They ' re working in family systems. The planters didn'' t have adequate money to pay wages to people.That ' s why you share the crop. If you'' re a wage earner, the crop belongs to the planter and the planter offers you your share out of that. On the other hand if you'' re an occupant, you have the crop, and it doesn ' t matter what the planter ' s financial obligations are.You pay the planter out of your crops.

Video Transcript:

https://www.youtube.com/embed/BdNvMgtaRnM >> > > This entire concern of whether facilities ought to be different or not was dirty and disputed in Reconstruction, state by state, community by neighborhood. The early Presidential Reconstruction federal governments had begun to develop facilities for whites. They said, forget blacks. The federal government released them, they got to take care of them. However they began to build medical facilities, or asylums, and even schools, like in North Carolina, they really started building a public school system for whites right away after the Civil War. Then the Freedmen'' s Bureau bought them to permit blacks into the school system, even if it suggested establishing schools, separate schools, for blacks.So if you'' re going to have public schools, they'' ve got to have them for both. Whereupon (this is 1866) North Carolina abolished its public school system. They would rather leave white individuals uneducated than pay taxpayers' ' money to establish schools for blacks. This reveals you the mentality coming out of slavery. However normally speaking, these public organizations were separated in some method throughout Reconstruction. And even in prisons, the inmates tended to be separated. Even in the South Carolina Institute for the Blind, where people might not see race, [laughter] they were still separated from each other into various wings of the building. As I say, the factor for this, as I state, is simply most African Americans felt that it was– what they were getting was public centers for the first time. They were being acknowledged as part of the body politic, the citizenry, which they hadn'' t been.So the problem of partition or integration was truly not almost as crucial in 1867, '' 68 as it would end up being, you know, in the future and in the 20th century. In terms of teaching at schools, another factor is that black moms and dads desired black teachers for their kids. And they understood that whites would never ever send their kids to school to be taught by a black instructor. Therefore if you wanted black instructors, you needed to have separate schools; that was the only method they would ever survive. I ought to say that all this connects to a sort of bigger question, also murky, which– a sort of difference in emphasis, you may state, between my deal with this and another very, extremely essential book, which came out about 10 years ago, on Reconstruction, by Steven Hahn, called “” A Nation Under Our Feet,”” which won the Pulitzer Prize back in 2003 or '' 04. The title of Hahn'' s book, “A Nation Under Our Feet,”” gives you the argument, in a particular sense. His argument is African Americans considered themselves as a separate nationality. They did not think of themselves as simply American citizens.Even thought they spoke about equivalent rights, it was sort of group self-determination that was more crucial to them. And he sets himself up (he'' s a good buddy of mine and a great scholar) he sets himself up versus my book, which emphases more the desire for addition in the body politic, despite the fact that, with separate institutions like churches, but that in political concerns I saw more of this focus on inclusion. Who'' s right, who ' s incorrect? Well, I ' m right, of course. [laughter] They ' re both crucial books, and Hahn'' s book is extremely important. But you understand, in all these problems you have these currents drifting around of just how much separation, just how much combination. There'' s no single answer to that.But these problems are disputed. And the Reconstruction federal governments are trying to handle them and please black constituents, without totally alienating the white population of the South, which is the majority in a lot of Southern states. Now another location, of course, these federal governments had to deal with, possibly the fundamental area, was the financial plight of the South. Now, there was a lot of destruction in the Civil War, as we all understand. Sherman, all this stuff. But an agricultural society can rebound quickly from destruction. The land is not ruined, you understand. It'' s not like factories you need to restore. The land is still there. You need to maybe construct new fences. A lot of animals, livestock, and so on, were eliminated in the war or taken by the army. There'' s a lot of reconstructing to be done, however it'' s possible to start again.But the concern is how to do that. Now, African Americans still wanted land. That 40 acres and a mule was still out there as a political problem. However no state– Congress had actually made it clear they were not distributing land. States can have all sorts of policies about land. However extremely few of them addressed this concern straight. The one exception was, really, South Carolina, which set up a state land commission, which would buy land on the free market. And the value, the price of land had actually fallen tremendously, so it was possible to buy land if you had cash in considerable amounts.The state would obtain land for the state, not provide it away but offer it to, well, any person who desired it, however primarily black households in South Carolina. Sell it on extremely long-term bases with really low rate of interest, simple payments, simply put, attempt to encourage– use the power of the government to collect up land and then settle black families on it.And by the end of Reconstruction, something like 10% of the African American families had land (in South Carolina) land of their own, thanks to the South Carolina Land Commission. Whether 10% is a lot or a little, you can determine for yourself, but it'' s certainly more than zero, although it'' s not everybody, by any methods. As I discussed last time, there were other procedures to attempt to help, you may state, or guarantee these farming workers, however also these small farmers. There were these “” stay”” procedures, that is, measures suspending the collection of financial obligations. This tended to benefit more individuals who owned land, instead of– most blacks didn'' t have financial obligations; they had absolutely nothing, you understand. No one'' s going to loan them money. This benefited small farmers, maybe even planters, in some states. There were these homestead arrangements I mentioned last time, whereby a particular quantity of your residential or commercial property was exempt from seizure for financial obligation. So even if you sort of declared bankruptcy, you could still hold on to your house and some small amount of land.How did these impact the mass of African Americans? It'' s not 100 % clear. We know that land distribution failed. And what takes its location is the rise of a system that we call sharecropping? Sharecropping. As the name recommends– there are all sorts of variations within it, but sharecropping is generally that the staff member works the land particular part of land, for the year, and at the end of the year, the crop is collected and they share the crop with the owner. The owner has land however requires labor. The laborers desire land however can'' t get it and require to work. Sharecropping is a compromise. By the method, sharecropping is a system that exists all over the world in one type or another.Some places it operates in a perfectly rational method, or successful method, in some cases it doesn'' t. It didn ' t work effectively in the South in the long period after the Civil War, not just a couple of years, for reasons we will explain in a 2nd. Sharecropping was a compromise between the white requirement for labor and the black desire for as much financial autonomy as you might get under the scenario. It'' s not like slavery in that, putting aside that you ' re'not a servant, there ' s no overseer informing you'what to do, you ' re not working in a gang with other people.They ' re working in family systems. Each family has a plot of land, which they lease from the owner. They basically farm it as they see fit. There'' s no one there day-to-day, informing them what to do, as under slavery. So there'' s more everyday autonomy. How they allocate their labor becomes a concern for the household to choose. Nobody'' s telling you, go out in the fields at six in the morning, whether you wish to or not. No one'' s telling you, your child needs to go to work in the fields instead of go to the school down the road.So it does, despite the economic inequality of it, it does give these laborers more autonomy than certainly they had under slavery. Furthermore, it'' s a reflection of the fact that there'' s no cash in the South. You can'' t really pay earnings to people for working, because there'' s no cash. The Southern economy is bust, basically. The financial system is bust. The planters didn'' t have enough cash to pay wages to people.That ' s why you share the crop. The important thing is the crop at the end of the year. Now there were various variations in this. How they divide the crop depends upon things like who offers the seed and the fertilizer. The more the landowner supplies to the sharecropper, the more of the crop he gets at completion of the year. In the Gienapp book, there'' s a sharecropping agreement, which sort of describes a little bit how this works. And one essential reality, however, is that there is this severe legal distinction, which may not seem like much at the start, regarding whether the sharecropper (the farmer, the farm family) are wage earners or tenants. Are they working as employees of the owner? Or are they working as renters? Because then the question is, it basically comes down to: who gets the very first crack at the crop when the year is over? Since both of them may be in debt.They have financial institutions. If you'' re a wage earner, the crop belongs to the planter and the planter gives you your share out of that. If you ' re an occupant, the crop belongs to you, and you offer the planter his share as lease. What distinction does that make? Well, what if the planter owes cash to other individuals? What if he borrowed cash from a bank? What if he obtained money from a, you understand, a merchant? There'' s a lot of individuals who he'' s beholden to at the end of the year, and the renter may not be initially in line. In other words, if it belongs to the planter, the merchant may take their part initially, the bank may take their part. There might not be anything left for the sharecropper when the planter'' s financial obligations are satisfied. So that'' s a not great situation. On the other hand if you'' re a renter, you have the crop, and it doesn ' t matter what the planter ' s financial obligations are.You pay the planter out of your crops. So this may be odd, but it'' s very crucial. Under Reconstruction, the law generally explained the sharecropper as a renter. It shifted the balance of power. Even though it'' s an unequal situation, they attempt to shift the balance of power toward the sharecropper to protect his right to that part of the crop at the end of the year. Again, as soon as Reconstruction ends, the so-called redeemers alter the law and they specify the sharecropper as a wage earner without any claim to the crop at all up until the planter gives you his share, and he might not have a share when the entire thing is over. So it'' s a very crucial, rather unknown but really crucial legal point as to how individuals in fact experience this. As found on YouTube – Creative Commons License

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