Banker and sharecroppers

Book pages 84-85


In Alabama I lived with the rich owner of several banks which he had built up himself.

This banker was one of the more liberal in Alabama and had hired "niggers" as cashiers in his bank, although he called them Negroes whenever he was in their company.

Often in my journey - as the poor tramp - I periodically got a strong desire to get an education in order to have a career and get to the top in society, but whenever I, as here, got a chance to live the so-called good life, it usually made me so sick that I quickly fled out again to the highway.

For where did all the gold, which the banker used for his luxury home outside the city, come from? Well, he told me that he had made his fortune by giving bank loans to poor black sharecroppers so that they could buy themselves a mule or move from the rotten shack into a streamlined plastic trailer to join the new plastic proletariat of more than 30 million Americans.

But many sharecroppers in the South cannot even afford such cheap dwellings.

They have enough problems making payments for the mule and are in constant debt not only to the bank, but also to the white landowner who owns the fields and to whom they often must pay the greater share of their harvest, just as we in feudal Europe paid the church and the squire.

The system started at the end of the civil war when neither the planters nor the freed slaves had any money. Driven by hunger to work for little or nothing, the destitute blacks made agreements with their former slave-owners to borrow land as well as housing and seed.

In theory, they would share the profit when the harvest was sold.

But debt and dishonest bookkeeping usually brought the sharecroppers into a situation materially worse than under slavery, in which the master had at least an interest in feeding them.

The system has continued from generation to generation and on top of the eternal debt to the landlord came the debt to the commissary store and later the bank, all helping to create a white upper class.

This banker in Alabama had feathered his nest so well that he could take me on a trip in his private airplane to look at his niggers from above.



Copyright 2005 AMERICAN PICTURES; All rights reserved.


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