After the American Civil War freed slaves, landless and uprooted moved about in search of work. The Southern states enacted laws resembling the slave codes of slave times and restricted the movement of the former slaves in an effort to force them to work as plantation labourers often for their former masters at absurdly low wages.

Eventually, many of these former slaves became sharecroppers. Sharecropping is a system of farming where two parties share the profits from the same land. In this type of system, the sharecropper supplies all of the labor and 1/2 the seed, while the owner of the land provides the land, the draft stock, farming supplies and 1/2 seed. When the crop is harvested, each party receives 1/2 of the income.

Theoretically sharecroppers enjoyed the benefits of independence and self employment; in practice however they barely earned enough to feed and cloth their families.

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