African-American Tenant Farmer Photographs, Clarksville, Virginia, c. 1920 (Ms2009-110)
Permission to publish material from the African-American Tenant Farmer Photographs, Clarksville, Virginia, must be obtained from Special Collections, Virginia Tech.
Tenant farming was common after the abolition of slavery. Agriculture in many parts of the United States had been built upon the work of enslaved people. Once enslaving people was no longer legal, landowners had to find another method to farm their land. At the same time, former enslaved people needed homes and jobs. Tenant farming was the solution chosen by many landowners and former enslaved people. A landowner would rent a portion of their land to a tenant for a price that was, many times, half of the crop or a significant amount of money. Farming was unpredictable and this type of arrangement often proved problematic for tenant farmers if their crops failed.
Language of Materials
This collection contains six black and white photographs of a tenant farm in Clarksville, Virginia.
These photographs depict the conditions of a tenant farmer known as Aaron working a piece of land on the John T. Lewis, Jr., estate in Clarksville, Virginia. These photographs, taken around 1930, show the conditions in which tenant farmers lived and worked during the Great Depression. President Franklin D. Roosevelt attempted to improve the conditions of farmers around the country with his New Deal legislation, making parity payments to landowners who were then expected to share these payments with their tenants; however, some of these landowners took the opportunity to keep the money for themselves. By the late 1930s, nearly forty per cent of all farmers were tenant farmers.
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