Ms History Reap What You Sew

723 words - 3 pages

Mississippi History cannot be talked about without reference to the Mississippi River, cotton, or racism. All three played a major part in the formation of Mississippi history and its continuing development. The Mississippi River gave the state its name and plays a major role in the state’s transportation system and economy. Cotton was Mississippi’s largest cash crop during slavery and beyond and still places high on the state’s list of domestic products. Racism has been prevalent in Mississippi since before it became a state. It was at the root of slavery, sharecropping, and segregation.
The Mississippi River is the nation’s longest river and runs through Mississippi’s Western border. The Mississippi River figured so prominently in the territory that the name was chosen for the new state. The Mississippi River was used for transportation of people and products in the states early days. Also, several of Mississippi’s early and most prominent cities like Natchez and Vicksburg were built along the Mississippi River. In fact, the Union siege of Vicksburg and the capture of the Mississippi River played prominently in the Civil War defeat of the Confederates. Most importantly, the Mississippi River created the fertile lands of the Mississippi Delta on which the cotton industry grew after the Civil War.
Cotton is not the state flower of Mississippi, but it should be because of what it has meant to the state and its people. Cotton has been the instrument of slavery and sharecropping. Both systems enslaved African-Americans and enriched the pockets of White Mississippians. Cotton was a labor intensive crop before the age of large scale mechanization. It needed many hands to pick the cotton and get the seeds out of its billowy fibers. This meant large amounts of cheap labor were necessary to make it profitable. Free slave labor was as advantageous for the cotton plantation owners as it could get. Once slavery was abolished by the 13th amendment, it didn’t take long for cotton production to be rechanneled into the system of sharecropping, a system that was just as bad for African-Americans as slavery was and in some ways more so because it was an unwritten form of slavery. The...

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