Throughout the 1860s to 1960s, slavery still persisted for many African-Americans despite the ending of slavery after the Civil War. This slavery existed in the form of sharecropping, a system where old slave masters would offer their slaves meager land and tools to farm the land in exchange for a extremely one-sided deal of the offer; most of the harvest. This form of slavery tied many African-Americans to the land and prevented them from ever really leaving it, as they were never able to pay off their debts. Even today aspects of corrupt treatment of minorities can be seen, as with the Mexican migrant workers which flock to California and Texas for better wages only to be exploited for their labor.
Right after the Civil War, the Union’s troops were the only things preventing the south from taking back over and taking advantage of the slaves of the south. The North knew that the only thing that could protect the African-Americans and freed-slaves in the south was the law, which could only be enforced if the blacks were able to vote. Men like General Sherman offered 40 acres of land to families of slaves, in an act called “40 Acres and a Mule”. As Sherman pushed farther south, he gave the ravaged lands the Union Army took to many slave families. Even early on, some blacks managed to hold positions in office and state-level governments, but ultimately the shortcomings of the Union Army let the South retake these positions. This was supposed to get the slaves off and kicking as well as financially independent, but when the Union Army pulled out in the 1870s to help with unity the Southern governments took advantage of the situation by implementing laws which prevented many blacks from utilizing their land, and instead the land being granted back to the original owner. It was failures like these which helped make the Reconstruction a complete failure. Even going into the early 1900s, sharecropping was still a huge problem and influence in the American South. Men like Jackie Robinson, who was born the grandson of a slave, lived their early days as sharecroppers. Jackie, although in the last few generations of sharecroppers, still experienced an almost identical life of racism and hardship as those sharecroppers in the 1870s and 1880s. Aspects like this can still be seen today, where even despite things like sharecropping no longer existing there are new forms of slave labor for minorities; especially Mexican migrant workers.
(Photo of Jackie Robinson and his Family in Cairo, Georgia on a Sharecropping Farm)
Today, 5% of the labor force is undocumented illegal aliens, and of that 5%, 37% are exploited for their labor with lower wages, poor housing, and other means which their employers try to cut a bigger profit out of. “An astounding 84 percent who worked full-time were not paid time-and-a-half for overtime when they worked more than 40 hours in a week.” (History). Many suspect that California and Texas’ state governments support these systems, and actually help companies exploit undocumented laborers by brushing it under the rug or ignoring calls for distress or investigation. This is also a prevalent conspiracy because of the fact that the illegal immigration issue has been around for much longer than it should’ve, and even though the United States federal government and state-governments could somewhat easily get rid of the exploitation of illegals in a matter of years, the amount of exploitation of illegals has increased tremendously instead over the course of the past 20 years.
(Photo of Mexican Migrant Workers in the 1930s living in poor conditions)
Many wonder what we can do as a nation to help stop this, to which there are two effective answers; legally document the illegals so they become protected US citizens, or deport the illegals and get them out of the country. The first proposition is quite often shot down or disputed by many as it is considered a slap on the wrist, and promotes more illegals to flood the nation. This generally comes from the Republican side of American politics. The second idea is typically viewed as inefficient and costly, as there is no way a person could effectively get every single illegal immigrant out of the nation. This is typically seen from the Democratic political viewpoint. What we need to decide as a nation is a balance between the two, and how we can best utilize both arguments to the US’s advantage.
Article by Ethan Ludwig and Carson Johnson
History.com Staff. “Sharecropping.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2010, www.history.com/topics/black-history/sharecropping.
“The New York Times Company.” The New York Times, The New York Times, www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/09/03/is-immigration-really-a-problem-in-the-us/employers-exploit-unauthorized-immigrants-to-keep-wages-low.
“Jackie Robinson – Born To A Sharecropper.” Boys, Children, Street, and Baseball – JRank Articles, Sports JRank, sports.jrank.org/pages/3978/Robinson-