slave artifacts and photographs on display from several sources,
~ James Hicks, Iowa City IA
~ Muscatine Art Center, Muscatine IA
vividly remember seeing a dozen black men and women chained to one another
awaiting shipment to the southern slave market. Those were the
saddest faces I have ever seen."
- Mark Twain
Mississippi Valley was "the land of cotton." Kentucky, Tennessee,
Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana were consumed with its cultivation
and commerce. Easy transportation of cotton on the Mississippi River
helped to keep intact the antebellum plantation system well into the
20th century. The Mississippi Delta region was a mix of cultures and
ethnic heritage, but this region was no melting pot. It was a closed
society determined by race, where whites ruled from grand plantations
while African Americans worked the land.
Civil War ended in 1865, slavery ended. Nevertheless, the Union victory
did not bring true freedom for blacks, just a different form of bondage
called sharecropping. African Americans lived in a world that stripped
them of their constitutional rights and their dignity.
the soil and invasions of the boll weevil finally broke "King Cotton's"
rule. Thousands of blacks left the South, moving upriver to industrial
cities in the North. Yet even in many northern regions, it was nearly
100 years after the Civil War before African Americans achieved their
first measures of racial justice.
Under the sharecropping system, the 'cropper' owed the landowner half
of the proceeds from his harvest. However, previous years' loans for
food, clothing, and other necessities consumed the rest. No money was
left over as the sharecroppers needed more money from the landowner
simply to survive
and the cycle resumed.