Sharecroppers: Definition & History

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: U.S. State Abbreviations

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Who Were Sharecroppers?
  • 0:46 Sharecropping Labor System
  • 1:33 Life Beyond Sharecropping
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Brian Muhammad
When the Civil War ended in 1865, an important question centered around the newly freed slaves of the South. Were the former slaves ready to manage their own farms, or would the landowners force them back into the fields under a system similar to slavery? Learn more about the definition and history of sharecroppers, and test your knowledge with a quiz.

Who Were Sharecroppers?

A sharecropper is someone who would farm land that belonged to a landowner. The sharecropping family would plow, plant, weed, and harvest the land. However, they would only keep a small share of the crop, while the landowner would get the rest.

Following the Civil War, plantation owners were unable to farm their land. They did not have slaves or money to pay a free labor force, so sharecropping developed as a system that could benefit plantation owners and former slaves. Landowners would have access to a large labor force, and the newly freed slaves were looking for work. The workers could negotiate a place to work, and if they made enough money, they could purchase land or buy farm equipment.

Sharecropping Labor System

Sharecropping agreements typically favored the landowner. In many cases, at the end of a planting season, a worker might be paid only one-third of the crop that he or she produced. If a sharecropper could contribute something else other than labor, like a mule for example, he or she might receive a slightly larger portion of the crop.

Land was not the only thing sharecroppers needed from landowners. Landowners would sell fertilizers, seed, clothing, shoes, and food from the farm store to the sharecropper. Sharecroppers rarely had cash, so they were extended credit to make purchases. After the crop was harvested in the fall, the sharecroppers received shares of the crop. With the cash they received, the sharecroppers had to pay back the debt accumulated during the planting season.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account