After 1900 agriculture began to recover. Cotton production rose, but farmers also grew oats, corn, and hay. Tobacco became the leading crop in the Pee Dee area of the state.
After Tillman became U.S. senator in 1894, the agrarians began to quarrel with one another. Then, after 1900, a group of progressive leaders urged statewide reforms. These reforms included aid to education, the end of child labor in the cotton mills, and better treatment for the mentally ill and prisoners. Richard I. Manning, a progressive Democrat, was elected governor in 1916.
In 1900 the population of South Carolina was 1,340,316. By 1920 it had risen to 1,683,724. The rate of increase slowed in the 1920s as the effects of soil erosion drove many farmers from the state, particularly from the lower Piedmont region.
Compounding the effects of erosion was an infestation of the boll weevil, an insect pest from Mexico that feeds on the seed pods of cotton plants. Boll weevils destroyed half of the state’s cotton crop in 1922. Poor black farmers left in large numbers, and in 1930, for the first time in 110 years, the census showed South Carolina’s white population to be larger than its black population. The textile industry continued to expand in the 1920s as many Northern firms purchased local cotton mills. Like other Americans, South Carolinians were hard hit by the Great Depression, the hard economic times of the 1930s. Farmers, hurt by sharp declines in the price of cotton, depended heavily on the federal government for assistance.
As part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vast New Deal program to recover from the depression, laws were passed placing federal restrictions on cotton production.
The restrictions were meant to reduce the supply of cotton and thereby raise the price that growers could get for it. They were also meant to encourage greater diversification in farming by diverting cotton acreage to other crops. However, the result for many cotton-growing tenants was that jobs in Northern cities held out better economic prospects than farming, and they left the state. "South Carolina" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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