Kittie Howard

Friday, November 11, 2011

More Sharecropper Photos - Remy's a Story about Real Lives

(For those of you who have visited before, I thank you! If you're in a hurry, please scroll down to the added info above the new photos.  Er, en route, you'll see Rachel's blog highlighted.  She's the artistic genius who designed Remy's cover.  If you have a sec, please stop by and say Hi before moving on.  Thanks!)

When a classmate physically and mentally bullies Remy, the third-grader withdraws from friends and family and imagines the worst about his parents.  Starring at the Christmas tree is the classroom enables the sharecropper's son to escape his poverty-stricken life and dream about opening a present on Christmas morning and having turkey for Christmas dinner, neither of which has ever occurred.

Friends blame the changes in Remy's behavior on Leonard's bullying and encourage Remy to talk to his parents, his teacher or his priest.  Remy refuses, often with open hostility.  As Christmas Day approaches, Remy's struggle to understand why he has so little and others have so much deepens.  He concludes that Jesus is punishing him for hating Leonard and his bullying.

A bayou-laced, South Louisiana comes together in 1952 to stop Leonard's bullying in a compassionate manner and open Remy's heart to the meaning of Christmas through love and forgiveness.

Remy Broussard's Christmas is available on Kindle.  The cover design is by Rachel Morgan.   Thank you, Rachel for Remy's gorgeous cover.  The candle is Rachel's.  She focused to highlight and photographed the candle on her table in South Africa. Rachel blogs at Rachel Morgan Writes.  Please stop by and say Hi.  If you're not a follower, tsk! tsk!

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Through December 25, 2011, 10% of sales will be donated to the United States Marine Corps Wounded Warrior Foundation.  No tax deduction will be claimed for the donation.  Thank you for your support!  Sales are steady, and I'm greatly encouraged.  Out of 750,000 books on Kindle, Remy has broken through the 21,000 position.  It would be beyond a dream come true if Remy broke through the 1,000 position!

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I've been digging into the Memorial Room's archives at the U.S. Library of Congress and have included more photos.  These will be at the top of the previous photos.  I want to write a story that involves Remy with the kids of American-American sharecroppers.  Black and white sharecroppers lived in segregated housing in the Old South.  Their living conditions were usually far worse than those of white sharecroppers.  Jim Crow laws prevented blacks from voting.  In many instances, the inability to own land prevented whites from voting.

Sharecroppers occupied the bottom rung of the ladder and were usually ostracized, as if they didn't exist. In a way they didn't - since landowners didn't pay into the Social Security System and since sharecroppers lacked the means to do so and since most didn't vote and since health care or benefits didn't exist, thousands of people lived apart from mainstream society, like ghosts who lived and worked and died.

Conflicts between the races occurred.  The KKK (KuKluxKlan) easily preyed on black sharecroppers.  And, yes, some white sharecroppers belonged to the KKK.  As I mention in a caption below, the 1964 passage of the Civil Rights Act dismantled the sharecropper system.  However, the KKK remained active for some years afterward.

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Remy's story will reflect much of what you see in the photos.  However, the story does have a happy ending I think will warm your heart.  Amid the heartache, some goodness did exist. The new photographs:

Sharecropper children in Plaquemine Parish, Louisiana.  Photo courtesy of Ben Shahn.                                              

The son of a sharecropper hooks up for field work.  Although most landowners owned tractors and many kids did drive tractors, kids learned young how to work a horse- or mule-pulled plough.  Landowners could - and often did - loan out sharecroppers to other landowners, especially when hay was baled or the crops came in.  Landowners worked together to maximize weather conditions.  It was not uncommon to see sharecroppers walking down a road to get to another landowner's property.  Or a landowner provided a horse- or mule-pulled wagon to transport field hands.  Photo courtesy of Russel Lee.                                                       

Daughter of tenant farmer in kitchen. Note the skirt's split seam.  Many churches had a donation box for used clothing.  Some landowner families provided used clothing.  Without the financial access to toilet/hygiene products, sanitation was a problem.  It wasn't unusual for infants to die shortly after birth, for mothers to die in childbirth.  Toothaches claimed lives. Since sharecropper shacks (so called then by all) lacked in-door plumbing, out-houses existed, sometimes close to the shack.  During the winter, especially, each shack usually had what was called 'a slop bucket' for human waste during the night, emptied into the out-house in the morning.  Little or no maintenance of these out-houses existed.  They were nasty, smelly places, constantly buzzing with flies.  Photo courtesy of Russel Lee.
Same daughter.  Photo courtesy of Russel Lee.
Sharecropper clothes drying on the ground.  Containers like you see above were often used to wash clothes, often without detergent. Human dignity prevailed as much as possible. Photo courtesy of Russel Lee.

Tenant farmer wife slices hard tack, basically fat with a sliver of meat.  Tenant farmers saved fat from cooking or purchased lard in the landowner's store for lard sandwiches, a common staple.  Photo courtesy of Russel Lee.

Two tenant farmers. Note the boarded window.  Winters were cold.  Photo courtesy of Dorothea Lang.                                                                                                                                     

A sharecropper's wife.  Photo courtesy of Arthur Rothstein.

A sharecropper's child suffering from rickets and malnutrition.  Photo courtesy of Arthur Rothstein.

Evicted sharecroppers.  They received a small salary for work in the fields six days a week, but most landowners charged exorbitant  rents and inflated prices for subsistence goods in the farm's store.  This was a sharecropper's greatest fear and fueled the system.  There was no place to go.  Many huddled near roads until police made them move.  Photo courtesy of John Vachon.

Patched window on sharecropper's house.    Few landowners made repairs.  Shacks (as they were called) lacked in-door plumbing; most didn't have electricity.  Sharecropper families tended to be large.  Shacks usually had one or two rooms and a kitchen, often a galley kitchen.  Kids slept on discarded mattress on the floor, as many as possible to a mattress.  Each field hand received a small salary, so the drop-out rate from school was alarming.  Illiteracy and poverty prevailed.  The Federal government made numerous attempts to dismantle the system, but nothing cracked the unified Old South until the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.  Photo courtesy of Arthur Rothstein.
Interior of sharecropper shack.  Photo courtesy of Ben Shahn.
Sharecroppers weighing cotton.  Photo courtesy of Ben Shaln.  Post's header courtesy of Carl Mydens.  All photos are in a collection of donated photos in the Memory Room in the United States Library of Congress.  Go here if you wish to see more.  Type "tenant farmer" in the search box, at the top right.

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