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Sharecropping is a system of farming in which employee farmers work a parcel of land in return for a fraction of the parcel's crops. The system came into use in the United States during the Reconstruction era (1865-1876) that followed the Civil War. It is used in many rural poor areas today, notably in India.
Sharecropping developed as a response to economic upheaval caused by the emancipation of African-American slaves in the agricultural South. White-owned plantations had relied on slave labor and were unable to function without it. Similarly, slaves relied on plantation owners for food and shelter. Following emancipation, sharecropping came to be an economic arrangement that largely maintained the status quo. Sharecroppers worked a section of the plantation independently, often growing cotton, and received a very small percent of the parcel's output. Though the arrangement protected sharecroppers from the negative effects of a bad crop, many sharecroppers were confined to slave-like conditions of poverty. To work the land, sharecroppers must buy seed and implements, typically from the plantation owner who may charge exorbitant prices against the sharecropper's next season. Arrangements also typically gave half or less of the crop to the sharecropper. These factors made sharecroppers dependent on the plantation owners in a way similar to slavery. The sharecropping system in the U.S. continued up to the era of the Great Depression when many share croppers moved to the industrial north.
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