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Life in Louisiana in the 19th century


White League
White League

The Freedmen’s Bureau, a federal agency, provided some help to former slaves from 1865 to 1869. Accomplishments of the bureau across the South included the establishment of a system of free public schools for blacks; the expenditure of about $20 million in various types of relief and assistance; and some improvement in the social, economic, and political status of Southern blacks.

Most freed blacks, lacking the means to become economically self-sufficient, were compelled to work the lands of others. At the conclusion of the Civil War, much of the land in Louisiana remained in the hands of the prewar owners. Many Louisiana farmers and planters, however, lost their properties during the decade following the conflict, as labor problems and economic depressions took their toll.

Many Northerners, business leaders, and merchants bought these properties through public auctions. Reconstruction-era farmers of all backgrounds cultivated their lands by means of the sharecropping system. Under this system, landowners provided their tenants with equipment and advanced them credit for necessities. The sharecroppers, who were equally divided between whites and blacks by the end of the 19th century, worked the land for a percentage of the crop.

By the 1880s Louisiana’s production of cotton, rice, and sugar nearly equaled the record crops of the prewar period. However, during this decade and afterward, prices for farm products were consistently low. Often a farmer’s profit could not even cover debts to his bankers, local merchant, or landlord. In addition, lack of available capital and the need for ready cash perpetuated archaic, unproductive farming methods throughout the state. As a result, poverty was widespread among the state’s farming population, particularly among sharecroppers and small farmers. "Louisiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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