finding your roots

A Family of Sharecroppers

Brown University President Ruth Simmons grew up in a family of African-American sharecroppers. Sharecropping is a notorious system in which farmers pick cotton and live on someone else’s land for a share of the profits. But they had to pay such high charges for rent, they often fell into a cycle of debt. Watch video from Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr.



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  • Diane

    April 28, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Many people think only poor black families were “sharecroppers,” but both my paternal and maternal grandparents were sharecroppers in South Georgia. They not only picked cotton, but worked in tobacco as well. I recently found my maternal grandparents in the newly released 1940 US Federal Census. Their household income for the previous year was only $200! I’ve yet to find my paternal grandparents in the 1940 Census., but can imagine their plight was similar.

  • Bonnie Monroe

    April 28, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Thank you for this PBS program. It is quality work!!!

  • Herman Beach

    April 28, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    Sharecropping was awful and the black sharecropper was in an absolutely horrible condition. There were a lot of white sharecroppers as well and many many poor ignorant whites who struggled at the bottom rung of society. Growing up in that I grieve over the pain of all that struggle and am sad to have it portrayed as a black only struggle. I understand the desperate condition of Jim Crow and a segregated society. It was an absolute struggle and it should be the story of us all.

  • yuling

    October 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    this video is very useful and intersting

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About the Series

The basic drive to discover who we are and where we come from is at the core of the new 10-part PBS series Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the 12th series from Professor Gates, the Alphonse Fletcher University Professor at Harvard University and director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. Filmed on location across the United States, the series premieres nationally Sundays, March 25 – May 20 at 8 pm ET on PBS (check local listings).

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