Oklahoma background CenterResearch CenterMuseums and also SitesState historic Preservation Office PublicationsAbout OHSSupport


Sod home of a sharecropper(19184.129.b, Althia Hart Collection, OHS).

You are watching: In the system of share-tenancy farmworkers


Tenant farmer"s house in east Oklahoma(8470.17, approve Foreman Collection, OHS).


When the Civil war ended, the huge question pertained to the state that the freed servants of the South. Restore of the southern economy relied on getting the freedmen ago into the cotton fields. During the duration of repair the Radical republicans in congress tried to transform the freedmen into little free-holding farmers, yet the previous slaves were simply not all set to control their very own farms. What arised out of requirement was southerly farm tenancy, a mechanism of close to slavery there is no legal sanctions.

Instead of functioning in gangs together they had on antebellum plantations, the freedmen ended up being tenants. The planter or landowner assigned each family members a small tract of land to farm yard and detailed food, shelter, clothing, and also the essential seeds and farm equipment. As soon as the crop was harvested, the planter or landowner take it the noodle to market and after deducting for the "furnish" (the price of the item the tenant had actually been furnished during the year), gave half of the proceeds come the tenant. This setup became recognized as sharecropping.

In the years after restoration tenancy and sharecropping came to be the way of life in the noodle Belt. By 1930 there were 1,831,470 tenant farmer in the South. What started as a machine to get former slaves back to work ended up being a pernicious mechanism that entrapped white and black farmers. After 1900 the variety of white tenant farmers thrived alarmingly. Through 1935 nearly fifty percent of white farmers and also 77 percent of black farmers in the country were landless.

As farm tenancy grew, a tenancy ladder evolved. Indigenous the bottom rung, the hapless sharecropper might climb to share tenant if he might accumulate sufficient of his own equipment and money. Re-publishing tenants retained two-thirds or three-fourths that the crop, depending upon how lot they can furnish. If a re-superstructure tenant advanced to a allude of needing nothing but the land, the could become a cash tenant by payment a fixed rental. Cash tenants kept all of the proceeds indigenous the crop.

Unfortunately, 10s of thousands of farmers dropped down the tenancy ladder quite than moving up it. Part farmers shed their farms or their condition as cash or re-superstructure tenants since of crop failures, low noodle prices, laziness, ill health, poor management, exhaustion of the soil, too much interest rates, or inability to compete with tenant labor. Countless tricks of nature (drought, flood, insects, frost, hail, high winds, and plant diseases) might ruin a crop.

Sharecropping and tenancy remained accepted as a normal component of southerly life till the good Depression. Climate the realization took hold that the tenancy mechanism desperately required reform. However, the early new Deal"s agricultural programs lugged no change. Based upon drastic acreage reduction and also benefit payments that went mostly to landowners, in actuality the programs were a catastrophe for tenants and sharecroppers. When planters and also landlords reduced their acreage in production by 40 or 50 percent, they reduced their tenants by the exact same amount.

Although there room similarities, the story of tenancy in Oklahoma does no fit the sample of southerly farm tenancy. The distinctions are dictated by the unusual history of the white negotiation of Oklahoma. By 1880 the American farming frontier was ending. Indian are offered around the critical frontier for an excellent farmland. Indian ascendancy prohibited white soil ownership. Nor might Indians lease your land to outsiders, yet they might employ white skin - man to occupational their land. Under the subterfuge of gift employees, a flood of white tenants came into the region in the 1870s, 1880s, and also 1890s. Through 1900 three-fourths of every tenant farmers in Oklahoma were white. Few of these early arrivals got ownership by purchase, connivance, or intermarriage, but a deadly combination of economic and also natural forces kept most from climbing the farming ladder.

Between 1900 and also 1910 the numbers of white tenants doubled. As soon as the laws readjusted after statehood and non-Indians were allowed to to buy land, tenancy slightly declined. However, in the adverse year of the 1920s, when farming suffered from short prices and overproduction, white tenancy rose again to almost 70 percent. Through 1935, v 119,615 white tenants, Oklahoma had the highest rate the white tenancy in the united States.

In the usual arrangement with re-superstructure tenants in Oklahoma, the landlord received one-third that the grain crop and one-fourth of the cotton produced. The tenant had actually to carry out most of the equipment, animals, and furnish. Realistically, farming fourty or fifty acres on this basis to be a prescription because that poverty, especially when noodle prices plunged.

Tenancy did no necessarily equate through poverty, but in the southerly tier of counties and in the triangle the Southeastern Oklahoma, tenancy devolved into much the exact same poverty-ridden mechanism that existed in the Deep South and also Texas. Landlords do tenancy kinds by oral contracts for one year only. At the end of the year most tenants moved on in search of a far better place. Landlords urged moving because it prevented the development of an developed tenantry. Because of a continuous surplus that tenants, or renters as they were called, in ~ the end of the chop year landlords easily recruited brand-new renters, often on state even more favorable come the landlord. In 1920 totally two-thirds of every tenants moved from one farm yard to another.

Because this system of land tenure to be so transitory, the landlord was forced to administer nothing however the land. While this gave in a thin profit top top very little investment, it was the road to disaster. Neither the one-year tenant no one the landlord had actually a reason to make renovations on the land or to practice conservation. Essentially, they mined the soil. Lugged to its reasonable conclusion, floor mining would certainly leave the land eroded and also exhausted. Production would cease, and the landlords, the tenants, and also the land would certainly all be ruined.

Black tenancy in Indian Territory has a similar story. All of the five Tribes had black slaves. When the tribesmen were removed to Indian Territory, they carried their servants with them. Through 1840 plenty of cotton plantations exist in the Choctaw and also Cherokee Nations, greatly in the productive river bottom of the Arkansas and Red rivers. Many plantations had several hundred acre in cotton and also dozens of slaves to carry out the work.

The Civil battle disrupted the plantation mechanism in Indian Territory, and also after the war many planters lacked money and manpower to resume operation. Post-war treaties in between the U.S. Government and the five Nations required that slaves be freed and also become citizens of the people with civil liberties to land. Despite a delay process, eventually most freedmen received land assignment of at least forty acres. If this retained them out of farm yard tenancy for a time, in harsh fact a forty-acre farm is not big enough to allow a farmer to get ahead. In every likelihood, countless of the freedmen shed their little farms and also did so because that the same reasons that white farmers shed theirs.

In 1930 Oklahoma had 22,937 black color farmers, 14,559 of them tenants. Contrasted to 180,929 white farmers, 110,770 the whom were tenants, the number of blacks are quite low. As only a few thousand Indian slaves ended up being freedmen, the does no seem most likely that all black color farmers in Oklahoma were your descendants. Numerous must have migrated to Oklahoma together employees or tenants the Indian landowners, or after that as homesteaders or displaced tenants.

See more: The Citizenship Of The World Merit Badge Worksheet, Citizenship In The World

It is clear that the type of plantation-oriented black sharecropping that existed in the Deep southern after the Civil battle never developed in Oklahoma. In fact, the variety of black sharecroppers, only 4,560 in 1930, was quite small. Interestingly, there to be 16,495 white sharecroppers at the very same time. Generally, the black croppers and tenants had actually smaller ranches that were much less productive, lowering their standards of living and making your tenure ~ above the land even less secure.

A farming national problem in the 1930s, southern farm tenancy finished abruptly during and after human being War II. Federal government programs, mechanization, and also their very own inefficiency drove tenants indigenous the land. Jobs and a much better way that life lured lock to city areas. The well-known story the the Okies and also their migration to California vividly illustrates the finish of southerly farm tenancy. Few Americans would certainly mourn the happen of together a system.