About Sharecropping Essay Research Paper SharecroppingTrudier HarrisA

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About Sharecropping Essay, Research Paper Sharecropping Trudier Harris A practice that emerged following the emancipation of African-American slaves, sharecropping came to define the method of land lease that would eventually become a new form of slavery. Without land of their own, many blacks were drawn into schemes where they worked a portion of the land owned by whites for a share of the profit from the crops. They would get all the seeds, food, and equipment they needed from the company store, which allowed them to run a tab throughout the year and to settle up once the crops, usually cotton, were gathered. When accounting time came, the black farmer was always a few dollars short of what he owed the landowner, so he invariably began the new year with a deficit. As that

deficit grew, he found it impossible to escape from his situation by legal means. The hard, backbreaking work led to stooped, physically destroyed, and mentally blighted black people who could seldom envision escape for themselves or their children; their lives were an endless round of poor diet, fickle weather, and the unbeatable figures at the company store. Those with courage to match their imaginations escaped under cover of darkness to the North, that fabled land of opportunity. As a theme in literature, sharecropping stretches from the late nineteenth century into the contemporary era. Charles W. Chesnutt would write in The Wife of His Youth and Other stories of the Color Line (1900) as well as in his novels of the convict lease system that imprisoned black men in the same

manner as sharecropping. Jailed on false charges of vagrancy, these men would in turn be hired out as cheap labor to local whites. This new prison environment was practically inescapable. Sterling Brown would paint equally vivid pictures of the inability of sharecroppers to escape their plight and of their paltry efforts to make do with what they had. His collection of poems, Southern Road (1932), documents the lives of rural blacks tied to unyielding soil and uncompromising landowners. Sharecropping as an impetus to migrate north occurs in some of the works of Richard Wright and John O. Killens. A different kind of freedom is suggested in "A Summer Tragedy" (1933), a short story by Arna Bontemps, where a defeated elderly couple simply get into their car and drive into

a river. The story therefore captures the spirit of despair that informs a lot of Wright’s works. For most of the characters in his Uncle Tom’s Children (1938), freedom is not something they can begin to visualize. Many of the characters in Ernest Gaines’s works find themselves locked onto the Louisiana plantations where they were born, their futures dictated by local whites. Set from the 1940s to the 1970s, Gaines’s works illustrate that not much had changed for black people in some parts of the South. Alice Walker’s characters would find sharecropping equally inescapable in The Third Life Of Grange Copeland (1970). Grange finally manages to steal away under cover of darkness, but his son Brownfield allows himself to become so damaged by the system that he kills his

wife. Walker, born to sharecroppers in Eatonton, Georgia, drew upon firsthand knowledge of this practice when she wrote her novel. In another literary portrait from this period, Jean Wheeler Smith’s "Frankie Mae" (1968), a young girl who has learned rudimentary math skills finds that she is no match for the figures at the company store. When at thirteen Frankie Mae questions Mr. White Junior’s addition, the landowner barely restrains himself from shooting her and her father. He sends her away with these words: "Long as you live, bitch, I’m gonna be right and you gonna be wrong. Now get your black ass outta here." This defeat leads to Frankie Mae’s realization that education can never provide the way out of her family’s predicament. She gives up