The Emergence of the Crop-Lien System in Eastern North Carolina
The slave-plantation system was clearly evil and a war was fought to end it. The Reconstruction period was a half hearted attempt to institute reforms in former slave states. Regionally and locally the former slave-owners regained political and economic power in the years following Reconstruction. The crop-lien system replaced the slave-plantation system. The two systems were similar in that labor was a dependent underclass with severely limited rights and freedoms. The only way this could have been thwarted would have been to fully implement promised reforms including land redistribution. The South as a whole was harmed by this process, but Eastern North Carolina was particularly set back as there were few alternatives to agriculture. The beginnings of reforms that had been promised in the 1860’s were not seen until a century later when a new social movement forwarded civil rights. The eastern third of North Carolina still suffers economically, socially, and educationally from the lingering effects of the failure of Reconstruction.
2nd place: Rhem-Schwarzmann Prize, awarded by Joyner Library 2011