Sharecropping Better than Slavery
The historical fiction story Roll of Thunder hear my cry provides us with adequate information about sharecropping. It goes into detail about the poverty prevalent in sharecropping families and the struggle to escape its grasp.
Take the quote, A tall, emaciated-looking boy popped suddenly from a forest trail and swung a thin arm around Stacey. It was T.J. Avery. His younger brother Claude emerged a moment later, smiling weakly as if it pained him to do so. Neither boy had on shoes, and their Sunday clothing, patched and worn, hung loosely upon their frail frames. The Avery family sharecropped on Granger land. This quote is evidence of how poor sharecroppers truly were. This point is also hinted at when Cassie mentions that Mama buys their closes in shifts. We could also take a look at the quote “When cotton-pickin’ time comes, he sells my cotton, takes half of it, pays my debt up at that store and my interest for they credit, then charges me ten to fifteen percent more as “risk” money for signin’ for me in the first place. This year I earned me near two hundred dollars after Mr. Montier took his half of the crop money, but I ain’t seen a penny of it. In fact, if I manage to come out even without owin’ that man nothin’, I figure I’ve had a good year.”This quote shows sharecropping frequently resulted in sharecroppers owing increased quantities of the harvest to the landowner, exceeding what they were able to reimburse. Furthermore, it shows how unenthusiastic some sharecroppers were willing to fight back against the problem.
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Unenthusiastic sharecroppers weren’t the only problem though, laws made it challenging or against the law for sharecroppers to sell their harvest to anybody except their landowner. Enter the quote “Mr. Avery nodded self-consciously, then leaned forward in his chair and looked out into the forest. ‘But – but that ain’t all Mr. Granger said. Said, too, we don’t give up this shoppin’ in Vicksburg, we can just get off his land. Says he tired of us stirrin’ up trouble ‘gainst decent white folks. Then them Wallaces, they come by my place, Brother Lanier’s, and everybody’s on this
thing that owes them money. Said we can’t pay our debts, they gonna have the sheriff out to get us …put us on the chain gang to work it off.'” This quote shows that sharecroppers couldn’t do anything about their debt even if they did try, and if they tried, they would be put on the chain gang, which is essentially slavery. Many tried in a different way though, having children. We can also see the quote, “All eight of the Avery children, including the four pre-schoolers, crowded into the kitchen with the boys and me”. As unusual as eight children might sound now, having more children was common in the 1930s and especially prevalent in sharecropping families. They had children in hopes that they could grow more cotton, and possibly buy their own land.
Because of how well the story Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry addresses the poverty in sharecropping families and their struggle to survive, I believe it is a great way to learn about the subject of sharecropping.