Sharecropping enabled wealthy white landowners to continue to profit from the labor of others. This contract had many stipulations that the sharecropper must meet in order to receive full compensation for his hard work. Any failure to meet these requirements resulted in the property owner keeping more of the crop shares. The contract was very specific and had many loopholes for the owner to use to manipulate the situation to his benefit. Although the owner did provide equipment and seeds, they came at a very high price for the renter.
Sharecropping ensured that the renters remained in debt to their landlords by the many requirements listed in the contract. Renters could not work other farms when there was work to be done on the contracted land. The sharecroppers had to lay fence, repair bridges, clean ditches, and care for his team. The contract owner had the right to force renters to work any area of the plantation needing assistance. The landlord also had control of all the money and determined what share the renters received based upon the condition of the supplies returned and the rent owed. If items were returned damaged or not at all, the landlord could keep whatever amount he saw fit as reimbursement.
Sharecropping was a form of slavery. Although African Americans could sign these contracts and appear to have freedom and choices, they were still controlled by the landowner. The renters did not own anything, and the landowner sold the crops and determined how much the sharecropper would receive. Many of the conditions in the contract were easy for the landowner to manipulate to control the sharecroppers’ pay. It was easy for the landowner to reduce the shares to two-fifths by claiming that fences were in disrepair or ditch banks were not clean. It was also easy for land owners to charge the sharecropper for failure to feed their team and this would also reduce the sharecroppers’ pay.
The sharecropping system did not enable African Americans to own anything. They rented the land and paid for the equipment to work the land. The landowner had the right to determine when the crops were sold and how much the sharecropper would be paid. It was very easy for the plantation owner to deduct earnings from the sharecropper and the renter had only the word of the landowner to determine the profits from the crops. The landowners could basically pay the sharecroppers whatever amount they wanted to.
This system contributed to racial inequality because it did not allow sharecroppers to change their lot in life. They did not make enough money to venture out on their own or purchase property. The landowner controlled them and the profits from the crops. Landowners easily found sharecroppers in violation of the terms of the contract and did not give sharecroppers their fair shares. The lasting effects of sharecropping were that sharecroppers did not make enough money to leave the plantations and they continued to work for the plantation owners for very little, if any, money. Sharecropping was just a fancy word for another form of slavery. The sharecroppers were unable to leave because they knew no other way of life and they did not have any resources to venture out on their own.