It can be hard to find accessible information for students to read about sharecropping. Here an oral history, photograph, and sharecropping contract are combined to build an understanding of the system.
In Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter, Osceola talks about "Daddy's Work." It's a short piece that provides students with a picture of the types of work sharecropper's did, for whom, and how they were paid.
Read "Daddy's Work" to the class and then in small groups have students re-read the passage and fill out charts with columns for "Daddy's Work," "For whom did he work?," and "How was he paid?"
Then use a sharecropping photo such as this Lewis Hine photo and visual thinking strategies to gather more information about sharecropping.
Have students write three-word phrases that describe sharecropping.
Generate questions they might have about sharecropping.
Read out loud a sharecropping contract and have students follow along, underlining details that reveal more about sharecropping. Do a verbal document analysis on it--who wrote it, date, what it says.
Then fill out a worksheet that has students detail what the landowner gets and gives and what the sharecropper gets and gives.
Generate new three-word phrases that describe sharecropping.
Possible writing prompts might include:
• Read the 13th Amendment and the sharecropping contract. Then discuss what freedom means.
• Read the contract and look at the photo. Imagine yourself as the child pictured.
• Choose the name of someone in the contract. What does freedom mean to you?
Published Oral Histories about Sharecropping
Alan Govenar, ed., Osceola: Memories of a Sharecropper's Daughter (2000)
Oral history of Osceola Mays, born in East Texas in 1909, the daughter of a sharecropper and the grand-daughter of slaves.
Eloise Greenfield and Lessie Jones Little, Childtimes (1979)
Three generations of black women remember their "childtimes."
Leon Walter Tillage, Leon's Story (2000)
Tillage, a black custodian in a Baltimore private school, reminisces about his childhood as a sharecropper's son in the South, and his youth as a civil-rights protester.
PBS Site Bibliography
Lesson with background information and transcribed contract
Lots of background information, lessons, and primary sources
Here's Osceola providing an oration or plea for justice.