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Hardships of Southern Sharecropping

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For many people in the 1930’s living conditions were not as

adequate as they needed to be. The stock market had just crashed

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in 1928, and the US was in the midst of the Great Depression.

Many people suffered from lack of money, and many others suffered

from lack of food. One group of people who suffered greatly

during this time period were the southern share croppers.

Factors that caused the substandard living conditions of the

southern share croppers in the 1930’s include lack of education,

poor health care, and inadequate living facilities.

The first factor that caused the substandard living

conditions of the southern share croppers was their lack of

education. There were several reasons the share croppers didn’t

get the education they needed. One main reason was because many

children didn’t go to school. Harold Walker writes that Southern

cotton states ranked lower in rate of attendance for each student

enrolled than any of the other states in the nation (4).


factor that contributed to this was their excessive mobility,

which inhibited many children from going to school (Corder 27).

It is common knowledge that any child who constantly moves around

will not be able to attend school on a regular basis, and even if

they go to a school when they get a chance they will be so far

behind they would have a difficult time catching up. Another

factor that impeded on a child’s attendance at school was the

fact that they never went to school when there was cotton to be

picked (Walker 8). This may not seem like a large task, but some

times it could take weeks to pick all the cotton. These few

weeks that a child spent picking cotton was valuable learning

time, and missing it could put a child too far behind to catch

up. Another reason share croppers didn’t get the education they

needed was because many southern rural schools had short terms

(Gentry 21). Because of this teachers would not be able to cover

all of the material that they needed to cover, or they would have

to rush through the material they did cover. A final reason the

education of the southern cotton states was not as good as other

states was because their teachers were not as good. This was

reflected in the fact that the salaries of Southern teachers were

not as high as the salaries of other teachers (Mckeon 98). Back

in the 1930’s the higher a teacher’s salary was the higher their

quality and training was (Mckeon 98). This meant that when

children did go to school they did not get adequate teaching.

Because of all of these reasons education of the Southern cotton

states was at an all time low. The children were not getting the

education they needed, so they were forced to work the

substandard jobs such as sharecropping. This meant that their

children would not get the education they needed, either. It was

a cycle that led to the lowering of the general living conditions

of southern share croppers, but lack of education was not the

only factor that lowered the living conditions of the share

Another reason the living conditions of the southern share

croppers were so low was because they had poor health care. To

begin with the tenant farmers did not eat in a healthy manner.

Mckeon writes that many tenant farmers in the South said that

garden vegetables, milk, butter, and eggs were never a part of

their diet (116). One of the main things that they did eat was

“sowbelly”, a fat salty pork (Walker 33). Because they ate so

poorly it was hard for them to stay healthy. Another health

concern of the tenant farmers was that their clothing was very

coarse and not warm enough (Gentry 38). Many of the men wore

denim overalls and the women wore cheap cotton and homemade

underwear, if any at all (Gentry 38). Wearing clothing like this

could be very hard on a person during the winter months, and

could easily lead to diseases such as the flu or pneumonia.

These diseases were hard for the poor sharecroppers to combat

because it was hard for them to afford any medication, if there

were any medications at all to help them out. Another disease

that plagued the southern sharecroppers was typhoid fever (Gentry

31). This disease was spread through contaminated wells and took

a heavy toll on the life and energy of a person (Gentry 31).

Malaria, which led to several fatalities, was also a serious

problem for the tenant farmers (Corder 98). It was a major

problem for many of the unfitting men, and the men who worked

long energetic hours (Corder 98). With all of these health

hazards it was hard for the southern share croppers to stay

healthy. To make the problem even worse there were not enough

health care facilities to take care of the sick. Walker writes

that in the 1930’s there was an average of 210 persons per

hospital bed in the south, while the national average was only

120 (10). This led to many overcrowded hospitals, and many times

the sick had to be sent home and took care of there. The bad

thing about this was that the disease could be spread around the

family, and soon around the community because there was nothing

to contain it. Because of this the living conditions of the

southern sharecroppers continued to decline, and it became harder

and harder for them to make a better life for themselves.

Another major problem many of the southern sharecroppers

faced was poor housing. In many cases the houses of the southern

sharecroppers were in horrid condition. Walker writes that many

of the houses were huts on the verge of collapsing (17). Many of

these huts were on the verge of collapsing into the water that

surrounded them (Walker 4). To get to these houses surrounded by

water logs were placed in a makeshift manner, and it was very

dangerous to cross (Walker 4). A misplaced foot or a slippery

log could easily have led to a severe injury, or maybe even

death. The surrounding water could have also been an easy place

for diseases, or dangerous animals to manifest, yet creating

another health problem for the tenant farmers. Houses for the

southern share croppers of this time were usually only two or

three rooms, which made it almost impossible for anyone to have

privacy or decency (Walker 87). The close living conditions also

made it easier for germs to spread, which meant that when one

person in a family got sick the rest of the family got sick along

with them. The construction of these shacks that the tenant

farmers lived in was also very poor. In many cases the roofs

were leaky (Walker 40). In other cases the houses were never

even painted, which meant that the houses were more susceptible

After looking back at the way the southern sharecroppers

lived it is easy to see that their way of life was well below

what is considered decent. These tenant farmers were plagued

with disease, they lacked a thorough education, and they lived in

wretched little shacks that were well below society’s standards.

It was hard for the sharecroppers to get out of this way of life,

though, because they had little money, and their education was

Cite this Hardships of Southern Sharecropping

Hardships of Southern Sharecropping. (2018, Jun 20). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/hardships-of-southern-sharecropping-essay/

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