Farmers who lease land and farming equipment in exchange for a share of the crop they harvest. The sharecropping system evolved in the United States after the Civil War when freed African Americans and poor white farmers sought jobs, while landowners sought laborers to farm cash crops such as cotton, tobacco, and rice. Rather than receiving wages, sharecroppers typically gave up to half of their harvest to the landowners. High interest rates and other forms of exploitation often kept sharecropping farm families in debt, leading some historians to call sharecropping “slavery by another name.” By the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, there were an estimated 3 million African American sharecroppers and 5.5 million white sharecroppers in the U.S. The practice faded away in the mid-20th century due to increased mechanization and urbanization.

Mentioned in the Bessie Coleman profile: