How Is Sharecropping Similar to Slavery?

According to, sharecropping, in which a poor family worked a farm in exchange for the right to live their and grow their own crops, became a common labor structure in the post-Civil War South. Since most of the large properties that engaged in sharecropping were run by old plantation owners, many sharecroppers were former slaves and were treated as slaves by the landowners.

The former Confederate states also passed "black codes." These laws all but disenfranchised black voters, forcing them to sign yearly sharecropping contracts and refusing them equality under the law in other ways. Most former slaves, with no skills other than farm labor, had little choice but to work for wages or to sharecrop. In the first case, they were subject to the same discipline and supervision they had endured as slaves, often with less overall compensation. Sharecroppers at least could work unsupervised, but the cost was often having the entire family work backbreaking hours to ensure that enough crops were grown to make the farm owner happy.

Both sharecroppers and laborers were often paid not in dollars but in plantation scrip, which was printed or coined "money" that could only be used at the plantation store. These stores, which sold the same items the former slaves were used to having issued to them, often charged inordinately high prices. Sharecroppers and laborers could borrow against future labor to purchase items at these stores, but they were locked into working at the plantation until their indebtedness was repaid. In many cases, this became a form of slavery under a new name.