Exhibit#2 Sharecropping Artifacts Meziere's Farm Collections
After the cotton was planted, weeds constantly had to be cleared away by a process called "chopping cotton". A sharecropper or day-laborer would use a hoe to dig up weeds that could harm the cotton. After the cotton bloomed, field-hands would pick the cotton by hand. A long canvas sack would be slung over the shoulder by a strap and the laborer would pick the cotton until the sack was full. The sack would be weighed and recorded by laborer's name, then dumped into a wagon.
The New Deal and World War II brought about political, technological and economic changes. Advancement in technology caused the growth of industrialized cities. The availability of the tractor ushered in a new era in farming techniques and replaced the tenant, sharecropper and mule team. In 1940, Natchitoches Parish census noted 7,060 farm workers (includes sharecroppers), and 1,268 seasonal workers (day-laborers) were reported. By 1945, there were only 4,188 farm workers (sharecroppers) and 314 reported as seasonal workers. The decrease was due directly to the increase in mechanized farming.
Water was a necessity for laborers to endure the dusty work of hoeing, plowing, and pulling cotton during the long hot Louisiana summers, where temperatures could reach up to 115 degrees in the fields. On some farms and plantations, water coolers were communal, used by laborer and landowner alike. Many children would accompany their parents to the cotton fields. Some were assigned the task of packing the cotton after it was weighed and dumped into a loading trailer and periodically supplying a dipper full of water to the workers. In 1960, a Natchitoches Parish Development Survey identified an alarming concern for the area. In the last six years of 1950 an increasingly huge number of labor forces were moving to the urban cities. Noticeably, the colored (Creoles) relocated to the highly industrialized states of the West Coast and Great Lake region. The need for higher industrialization within the Parish would "stop the out-migration of the labor force" (Natchitoches Parish Development Board, 1960).