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Forty Acres and a Mule
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Slave to Sharecropper: Primary Sources

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  Not Free Yet | A Sharecropping Contract | Good and Kind Treatment is Required


Good and Kind Treatment is Required

Freedmen's Bureau officer Martin R. Delany drew up a model contract for a sharecropping arrangement. His contract, which required payment of one-third of the crop to the laborer and offered some protection from abuses by the planter, gives a sense of some of the injustices other sharecropping arrangements imposed.

No labor is to be performed by hand that can better be done by animal labor or machinery. All damage for injury or loss of property by carelessness is to be paid by fair and legal assessments.

All Thanksgiving, Fast Days, "Holidays" and National Celebration Days are to be enjoyed by contractors without being regarded as a neglect of duty or violation of contract.

Good conduct and good behavior of the Freedmen toward the proprietor; good treatment of animals; and good care of tools, utensils, etc; and good and kind treatment of the Proprietor to the Freedmen, will be strictly required by the Authorities.

No stores will be permitted on the place and nothing sold on account except the necessaries of life such as good substantial food and working clothes. Spirituous liquors will not be permitted.

In all cases where an accusation is made against a person, the Proprietor or his Agent, [and] one of the Freedmen selected by themselves, and a third person chosen by the two shall be a council to investigate the accused. In all cases where a decision is to be made to dismiss or forfeit a share of the crop, the officer of the Bureau or some other Officer of the Government must preside in the trial and make the decision. When the Proprietor is prejudiced against an accused person, he must name a person to take his place in the Council.

Excerpt from Dorothy Sterling, editor, The Trouble They Seen, The Story of Reconstruction in the Words of African Americans. New York: Da Capo Press, 1994.

page created on 12.19.03
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Reconstruction: The Second Civil War
About the Film | Forty Acres and a Mule | Plantations in Ruins | Black Legislators
Northerners in the South | Access to Learning | Slave to Sharecropper | The Negro Question
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Reconstruction: The Second Civil War American Experience

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