Race, as seen by a white N.C. sharecropper in 1956

“In [a ‘Voices of the White South’ article in Life magazine in 1956] a 38-year-old white sharecropper in North Carolina summed up his support of segregation and his views on his black neighbors and fellow farmers this way:

“ ‘We’re working to own our farm. We want to hurry up and get someplace. But they just don’t work. They just don’t care. All they’re looking for is the end of the week when the landlord will shoot ‘em a little money. [T]hey take a bath once a month, and their fields don’t look like they’s hardly tending them.’ At the same time, according to LIFE, the sharecropper’s approval of segregation was ‘based as much, or more, on personal pride than notions of color. He would rather have a Negro living next door than he would a white “redneck” or “peckerwood.” In his view, “there’s nothing sorrier than a sorry white man.” ‘

“The white sharecropper’s wife, LIFE wrote, ‘also approves of segregation and will not let her 9-year-old daughter play with an 8-year-old Negro neighbor. This is the reason she gives: “If our landlord came down here and saw her playing with a colored boy, he wouldn’t respect us. Only poor class whites do that. We’re trying to keep our self-respect and keep the highest level socially we can. We’re willing to work with the Negroes, but that’s as far as we’ll go.” ‘”

— From “LIFE and Civil Rights” at life.time.com

 

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