The economic chaos that followed the American Civil War in the South led to the rise of sharecropping. Sharecropping emerged as a means of keeping the upper-class land owners in charge and ex-slaves dependent on the land.
African-American men rented small plots of land to grow crops and owed a portion of what they grew to the land owner. The cycle of debt forced on poor farmers kept them tied to cash crops, preventing crop diversity and economic mobility. Sharecropping did give African-Americans some freedom in their daily lives, and some managed to break out of the system and purchase their own land. For the majority, however, sharecropping led to generations stuck in a cycle of poverty.