Hardships of Southern Sharecropping

For many people in the 1930s living conditions were not as
adequate as they needed to be. The stock market had just crashed
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 1930s 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 didnt
get the education they needed. One main reason was because many
children didnt 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). A
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 childs 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 didnt 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 1930s the higher a teachers 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 1930s 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.

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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 societys 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