Aim: How can we develop questions for conversation?

Do Now: Sit with your group below.

It’s time to begin preparing for our weekly Seminar.

Last time, we talked about the role of the Federal government, banking, and debt. The Federal Government faced its greatest test during the Civil War, and the Union survived, but racism economic pressures continued to curtail civil liberties for newly-freed African Americans in the South.


📜 Jim Crow: Black Codes 📜 Henry Adams & Education 📜 Sharecropping Contract (w/SK)
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  • ✍ Question Formulation

    1. Ask as many questions as you can.
    2. Do not stop to discuss, judge, or answer any of the questions.
    3. Write down every question exactly as it was stated.
    4. Change any statements into questions.

    After you have finished listing all of your groups questions, go through and rewrite any closed questions as openquestions.


    Tenant Farming and Sharecropping

    By the year 1869 the Civil War had ended and Reconstruction was underway. Those enslaved were free under the Thirteenth Amendment, yet recovery for the South continued to be slow and harsh. It became clear that Congress would not be granting land to poor freedmen, and the concept of “40 acres and a mule” became a distant memory. Free Blacks, as well as poor Whites, had to find a way to make a living in a Southern region devastated for years to come by the after affects of war.

    Many people were left without money or land; however, they did have the skills to be able to grow crops. Likewise, landowners often had plenty of land but little money for wages. Thus, many turned to a system of farming called tenant farming and sharecropping.

    Tenant farmers usually paid the landowner rent for farmland and a house. They owned the crops they planted and made their own decisions about them. After harvesting the crop, the tenant sold it and received income from it. From that income, he paid the landowner the amount of rent owed.

    Sharecroppers seldom owned anything. Instead, they borrowed practically everything — not only the land and a house but also supplies, draft animals, tools, equipment, and seeds. The sharecropper contributed his, and his family’s, labor. Sharecroppers had no control over which crops were planted or how they were sold. After harvesting the crop, the landowner sold it and applied its income toward settling the sharecropper’s account.

    Most tenant farmers and sharecroppers bought everything they needed on credit from local merchants, hoping to make enough money at harvest time to pay their debts.

    Many sharecroppers were freed slaves, working the same land that they had once been enslaved upon. Sharecroppers were also often uneducated and could not read or write, thus landowners could easily take advantage of the situation. Landowners were in charge of selling the crops and keeping records of any debt the sharecropper owed them. While sharecroppers always held hope that the yield of crops would be large, and that their debt (often for items like seeds and tools) had been paid to the landowner, sharecroppers often ended up empty handed. The landowner need only tweak the numbers a bit, and a sharecropper would remain indebted to the landowner year after year.

    If the sharecropper tried to leave, he could be jailed for running out on such debt, legitimate or not. The legal system was likely to take the word of a rich, white landowner over a poor person and/or freed slave. The sharecropper system could thus be very profitable for a landowner, but a never-ending, unfair cycle for a sharecropper and his family. Landowners could also order sharecroppers to leave their land at any point for any reason. Such would often occur if a sharecropper became ill or injured.

    The Industrial Revolution and the First World War brought temporary prosperity to both agriculture and forestry in North Carolina. Agriculture expanded to meet the increased demand for food and fertilizers were becoming available. However, sharecroppers saw little of this brief time period of prosperity, since the twenties and thirties brought the Great Depression. The boom years of the WWI were over and farm prices again dropped severely. Cotton sold for 35 cents per pound in 1919 but dropped to only 6 cents per pound in 1931. Total national farm income was 16.9 billion in 1919, and only 5.3 billion in 1932.

    A Sharecropping Contract: 1882 (Modified)

    Source: Grimes Family Papers (#3357), 1882; Held in the Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

    To everyone renting land, the following conditions must be agreed to:

    For every 30 acres of land (rented by sharecroppers), I will provide a mule team, plow, and farming tools. The sharecroppers can have half of the cotton, corn, peas, pumpkins, and potatoes they grow if the following conditions are followed, but--if not--they are to have only two-fifths.

    For every mule or horse furnished by me there must be 1000 good sized rails (logs) hauled, and the fence repaired if I so direct. All sharecroppers must haul rails (logs) and work on the fence whenever I may order. The wood must be split and the fence repaired before corn is planted. No cotton must be planted by sharecroppers on their home patches of land. No sharecropper is to work off the plantation when there is any work for them to do for me.

    Every sharecropper must be responsible for all farming gear placed in his hands, and if not returned must be paid for unless it is worn out by use.

    Nothing can be sold from their (sharecroppers’) crops until my rent is all paid, and all amounts they owe me are paid in full.

    I am to gin & pack all of the cotton and charge every sharecropper an eighteenth of his part, the cropper to furnish his part of the bagging, ties, & twine.

    The sale of every sharecropper's part of the cotton to be made by me when and where I choose to sell, and after taking all they owe me.

    1. When and where was this contract written?
    2. What did the sharecropper have to do in order to use the plantation owner’s land, farming tools, and mules?
    3. Do you think this is a fair contract? Why or Why not?
    4. What parts of this contract do you think caused the sharecroppers to be in debt to plantation owners?

    Jim Crow: The Black Codes

    In the years following the Civil War, many Southern states and cities passed Black Codes. These laws laid out what freed blacks were and were not allowed to do. The document below, passed July 3, 1865, is a Black Code from Opelousas, Louisiana.

    SECTION 1. No negro shall be allowed to come within the limits of the town of Opelousas without special permission from his employers.

    SECTION 3. No negro shall be permitted to rent or keep a house within the limits of the town under any circumstances.

    SECTION 4. No negro shall reside within the limits of the town of Opelousas who is not in the regular service of some white person or former owner.

    SECTION 5. No public meetings of negroes shall be allowed within the limits of the town of Opelousas under any circumstances without the permission of the mayor or president of the board of police. This, however, does not prevent the freedmen from attending the usual church services.

    SECTION 7. No freedman who is not in the military service shall be allowed to carry firearms, or any kind of weapons, within the limits of the town of Opelousas without the special permission of his employer, in writing, and approved by the mayor or president of the board of police.

    SECTION 11. All the foregoing provisions apply to freedmen and freedwomen.

    1. Reside: To live in.

    1. When were these Black Codes written? Who do you think wrote these laws?
    2. List three things that freed men and women were not allowed to do according to the Black Codes.
    3. Why would white Southerners pass laws that controlled the movement of African Americans? What would happen if African Americans left the South in huge numbers?
    4. How do these laws help you to understand what life was like in Louisiana and other Southern states after the Civil War?

    Henry Adams Statement

    Former slave Henry Adams made this statement before the U.S. Senate in 1880 about the early days of his freedom after the Civil War.

    In September 1865 I asked the boss to let me go to the city of Shreveport. He said, "All right, when will you come back?" I told him "next week." He said, "You had better carry a pass." I said, "I will see whether I am free by going without a pass."

    I met four white men about six miles south of town. One of them asked me who I belonged to. I told him no one. So him and two others struck me with a stick and told me they were going to kill me and every other Negro who told them that they did not belong to anyone. They left me and I then went on to Shreveport. I saw over twelve colored men and women, beat, shot and hung between there and Shreveport.

    Sunday I went back home. The boss was not at home. I asked the madam [the boss’s wife], "where was the boss?" She said, "You should say 'master'. You all are not free . . . and you shall call every white lady 'missus' and every white man 'master.'"

    During the same week the madam took a stick and beat one of the young colored girls, who was about fifteen years of age. The boss came the next day and whipped the same girl nearly to death. . . . After the whipping a large number of young colored people decided to leave that place for Shreveport. [On our way], out came about forty armed white men and shot at us and took my horse. They said they were going to kill every colored person they found leaving their masters.

    1. Who wrote this document? When and why was it written?
    2. According to Adams, what was life like for freed men and women after the Civil War?
    3. Do you trust the account in this document? Why or why not?

    Question Focus: