Countering cotton with the great black hope

“As transportation links improved… between the South and the rest of the nation, it became possible to export blackberries, either fresh or dried, and this possibility joined the legion of other ideas how the region might escape the iron grip of cotton….

“Central North Carolina seems to have found the greatest bonanza…. Salem shipped a million pounds of blackberries in three years in the middle 1870s, earning half a million dollars. With cotton selling at 10 cents a pound, this would be the equivalent of 9,000 bales. ‘Whole trains full of berries swept out of this busy and thriving little city during the year,’ one envious Atlanta reporter wrote, ‘and the people were flush and full pocketed, while their neighbors were all out at the elbows and waiting the coming of some staple crop.’ ”

— From “Picking Blackberries and Getting By after the Civil War” by Bruce E. Baker (Southern Cultures, Winter 2010)