From wikepedia Sharecropping became widespread in the South as a response to economic upheaval caused by the end of slavery during and after Reconstruction. Sharecropping was a way for very poor farmers, both white and black, to earn a living from land owned by someone else. The landowner provided land, housing, tools and seed, and perhaps a mule, and a local merchant provided food and supplies on credit. At harvest time the sharecropper received a share of the crop (from one-third to one-half, with the landowner taking the rest). The cropper used his share to pay off his debt to the merchant. The system started with blacks when large plantations were subdivided. By the 1880s white farmers also became sharecroppers. The system was distinct from that of the tenant farmer, who rented the land, provided his own tools and mule, and received half the crop. Landowners provided more supervision to sharecroppers, and less or none to tenant farmers. Sharecropping in the United States probably originated in the Natchez District, roughly centered in Adams County, Mississippi with its county seat, Natchez. Sharecroppers worked a section of the plantation independently, usually growing cotton, tobacco, rice, and other cash crops and received half of the parcel’s output. Although the sharecropping system was primarily a post-Civil War development, it did exist in antebellum Mississippi, especially in the northeastern part of the state, an area with few slaves or plantations, and most likely existed in Tennessee. Sharecropping, along with tenant farming, was a dominant form in the cotton South from the 1870s to the 1950s, among both blacks and whites. Though the arrangement protected sharecroppers from the negative effects of a bad crop, many sharecroppers (both black and white) remained quite poor. Arrangements typically gave a third of the crop to the sharecropper. By the early 1930s there were 5.5 million white tenants, sharecroppers, and mixed cropping/laborers in the United States, and 3 million blacks. In Tennessee whites made up two thirds or more of the sharecroppers. In Mississippi, by 1900, 36% of all white farmers were tenants or sharecroppers, while 85 percent of black farmers were. Sharecropping continued to be a significant institution in Tennessee agriculture for more than sixty years after the Civil War, peaking in importance in the early 1930s, when sharecroppers operated approximately one-third of all farm units in the state.