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less renting of land. Except on the borders, nearly all whites were of the planting class. Their greater wealth had enabled them to outbid the average farmer and secure all the rich lands of the black prairies, canebrake, and river bottoms. The small farmer who secured a foothold in the Black Belt would find himself in a situation not altogether pleasant, and, selling out to the nearest planter, would go to poorer counties in the hills or pine woods, where land was cheaper, and where most of the people were white.

In the Black Belt cotton was largely a surplus money crop, and once the labor was paid for, the planter was a very rich man.2 In the white counties of the cotton states about the same crops were raised as in the Black Belt, but the land was less fertile and the methods of cultivation were less skilful. In the richer parts of these white counties there was something of the plantation system with some negro labor. But slavery gradually drove white labor to the hills and mountains, and to the sand and pine barrens. No matter how poor a white man was, he was excessively independent in spirit and wanted to work only his own farm. This will account for the lack of renters and hired white laborers in black or in white districts, and also for the fact that the less fertile land was taken up by the whites who desired to be their own employers. Land was cheap, and any man could purchase it.

There was some renting of land in the white counties, and the

2 See J. W. DuBose, in Birmingham Age-Herald, March 31 and April 7, 1901; R. H. Edmonds, "The Cotton Crop of To-Day," Review of Reviews, September, 1903; Ingle, Southern Sidelights, p. 271; address of President Thach, of the Alabama Polytechnic Institute, before the American Economic Association, New Orleans, December 29, 1903; Tillinghast, Negro in Africa and America, pp. 126, 143; Mallard, Plantation Life before Emancipation; Washington, Up from Slavery, and The Future of the American Negro, passim. The immense cost of the slave labor is seen when the value of the slaves is compared with the value of the lands cultivated by their labor. In 1859 the cash value of the lands in Alabania was $175,824,622, and that of the slaves was $215,540,000. The larger portion of this land had not a negro on it and was cultivated exclusively by whites. (See the Census of 1860.) The effect of the loss of slaves on the welfare of a planter is shown in the case of William L. Yancey. His slaves were accidentally poisoned and died. The loss ruined him, and he was forced to sell his plantation and practice law. A farmer in a white county employing white labor would have been injured only temporarily by such a loss of labor.

form it took was that now known as "third and fourth." 3 It was There was little or no tenancy "on halves"

then called "shares."

or "standing rent."

But the average farmer worked his own land, often with the help of from three to ten slaves.


On the borders of the Black Belt in Alabama was a peculiar class, called "squatters." They settled down, with or without permission, on lots of poor and waste land, built cabins, cleared 'patches," and made a precarious living by their little crops, and by working for wages as carpenters, blacksmiths, etc. Some bought the small lots of land on long-time payments and never paid for them, but simply stayed where they were. On the borders of the Black Belt in the busy season were found numbers of white hired men working alongside negro slaves; for there was no prejudice against manual labor; that is, no more than anywhere else in the world."



As soon as the war was over, the first concern of the returning soldiers was to obtain food to relieve present wants and to secure supplies to last until a crop could be made. In the white counties of the state the situation was much worse than in the Black Belt.

The tenant furnished labor, supplies, and teams, and gave to the landlord a fourth of the cotton and a third of the corn produced.

4 There was usually good feeling between the whites and blacks at work together, but the negroes at heart scorned the poor whites, and had to be closely watched to keep them from insulting or abusing them. The negro had little respect for the man who owned no slaves, or who owned but few and worked with them in the fields. To protect the slaves against outsiders was one reason why discipline was strict, supervision close, passes required, etc. When both white and black were allowed to go at will over the plantation and community, trouble was sure to result from the impudent behavior of the negro to "white trash," and the consequent retaliation of the latter. The whites often came to the master and wanted him to whip his best slaves for impudence to them. The master, to prevent this, regulated the liberty of the slave by passes, etc., and the whites, especially strangers, were expected not to trespass on a plantation where slaves were. The so-called prejudice" against manual labor is perhaps due largely to abolitionist theories and arguments, which have been partially accepted since the war by some southerners who think it due to the old system to show its lofty attitude toward the common things of life. But the negro had, and still has, a certain contempt for a white who works as he does. And it has always been a custom of mankind — white, yellow, or black- to avoid manual labor if there is anything else to do.


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The soil of the white counties was less fertile; the people were not wealthy before the war, and during the war they suffered from the depredations of the enemy and from the operation of the tax-in-kind which bore heavily upon them when they had nothing to spare. The white men went to the war, and there were only women, children, and old men to work the fields. The heaviest losses among the Alabama Confederate troops were from the ranks of the white-county soldiers. In all of these counties there was destitution after the first year of the war, and after 1862 from one-fourth to one-half of the soldiers' families received aid from the state. The bountiful Black Belt furnished enough for all. At the close of hostilities the condition of the people in the poorer counties was pitiable. Stock, fences, barns, and in many cases dwellings had disappeared; the fields were grown up in weeds; and no supplies of any kind were available. How many of the people managed to live was a mystery. Some walked twenty miles to get food, and there were cases of starvation. No seed of any kind and no farm implements were to be had. The best work of the Freedmen's Bureau was done in relieving these white people from want until they could make a crop.

The Black Belt was the richest, as well as the least exposed, section of the state, and fared well until the end of the war. The laborers were negro slaves, and these worked as well in war time as in peace. Immense food crops were made in 1863 and 1864, and there was no suffering among whites or blacks. Until 1865 there was no loss from Federal invasion, but with the spring of 1865 misfortunes came. Four large armies marched through the central portions of the state, burning, destroying, confiscating. In June, 1865, the Black Belt was in almost as bad condition as the white counties. All buildings in the track of the armies had disappeared; the stores of provisions were confiscated; ginhouses and mills were burned; cattle, horses, and mules were carried away; and nothing much was left except the negroes and the rich land. The returning planter, like the farmer, found his agricultural implements worn out and broken, and in all the land there was no money to purchase the necessaries of life. But in the portions of the black counties untouched by the armies there were

supplies sufficient to last the people for a few months. A few fortunate individuals had cotton, which was now bringing a fabulous price, and it was the high price received for these few bales not confiscated by the government that saved the Black Belt from suffering as did the other counties.

Neither master nor slave knew exactly how to begin anew, and for a while things simply drifted. Now that the question of slavery was settled, many of the former masters felt a great relief from responsibility, though for their former slaves they felt a profound pity. The majority of them had no faith in free negro labor, yet all were willing to give it a trial, and a few of the more strenuous ones said that the energy and strength of the white man that had made the savage negro an efficient laborer could make the free negro work fairly well; and if the free negro would work, they were willing to admit that the change might be beneficial to both races.

During the spring, summer, and fall of 1865 the masters came straggling home, and were met by friendly servants who gave them cordial welcome. Each one at once called his slaves and told them that they were free; that they might stay with him and work for wages, or that they might find other homes. Except in the vicinity of the towns and army posts, the negroes usually chose to stay and work; and in the rural districts affairs were little changed for several months after the surrender. There the surrender hardly caused a ripple on the surface of society. Life and work went on as before. The staid negro coachmen sat upon their boxes on Sunday as of old; the field hands went regularly about their appointed tasks. Labor was cheerful, and the negroes went singing to the fields. "The negro knew no Appomattox. The revolution sat lightly, save in the presence of vacant seats at home and silent graves in the churchyard, in the memorials of destructive raids, in the wonder on the faces of a people once free, now ruled, where ruled at all, by a bureau agent." Here it was that the master-race believed that, after all, freedom might be well. In other sections, where the negro was more exposed to outside influences, the whites were not hopeful. The common 6 • Accounts from old citizens, former planters.

opinion was that with free negro labor cotton could not be cultivated with success. The northerner thought that it was a crop made by forced labor, and that no freeman would willingly perform such labor; the southerner believed that the negro would neglect the crop too much when not under strict supervision. Yet later years have shown that free white labor is most successful in the cultivation of cotton because of the care now expended on farms in the white counties; while cotton is the only crop that the free negro has cultivated with any degree of success, because some kind of a crop can be made on the fertile soils of the Black Belt by the most careless cultivation.

At first no one knew just how to work the free negro. Innumerable plans were formed, and many were tried. The old patriarchal relations were preserved as far as possible. Truman,7 who made a long stay in Alabama, reported that in most cases there was a genuine attachment between masters and negroes; that the masters were the best friends the negroes had; and that, though they regarded the blacks with much commiseration, they were inclined to encourage them to collect around the big house on the old slavery terms, giving food, clothes, quarters, medical attendance, and some pay. At that time no one could understand the freedom of the negro. As one old master expressed it, he saw no "free negroes "10 until the fall of 1865, when the bureau began to influence the blacks. But with the extension of the bureau and the spread of army posts, the negroes, who for a while had been taking freedom on faith, now determined to enjoy the reality. Crops that had been planted in the spring were neglected in the summer and fall, while the darky moved away from 'The agent of President Johnson.

8 Report to the President, April 9, 1866.

9 Colonel Saunders, a noted slaveholder in one of the white counties in north Alabama, established a patriarchal protectorate over his former slaves. He built a church for them, and organized a monthly court, presided over by himself, in which the old negro men tried delinquents. It is said that the findings of this court were often ludicrous in the extreme, but order was preserved and for a long while there was no resort to the bureau. (See Saunders, Early Settlers, p. 31.) Many similar protectorates were established in the remote districts, but the policy of the bureau was to break them up.

10 A term of contempt.

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