In sharecropping, poor blacks and whites sold their labor to planters for a share of the crop.
The planter sold them cabins, work animals, tools, food, clothes, and other supplies on credit. At the end of the season, the sharecropper would pay off his debts with profits from the crop. But planters charged whatever they liked, then added interest, which caused the sharecroppers to get deeper into debt each season.
Their wages kept them alive, but very few could do anything to better their impoverished conditions.