Gallery #5
Life as a Tenant Farmer

An unidentified tenant farmer, his home, automobile, and family

At first, Lee Wilson & Company did not rent land to individiual farmers. Instead, they used a system whereby everyone literally worked for the company. The total Wilson landholdings were broken down into farms of six hundred acres. These administrative units each had numerous cabins for the black workers who did most of the actual work.

Tony McAfee, one of Lee Wilson & Company's farm managers, and his family

Each of the Wilson's farm managers was responsible for crop production on six-hundred-acre plots. R.E.L. Wilson, Jr. typically would oversee these mangers personally, often riding out to these farms by horse, then "riding the place" with the farm manager.

A tenant's garden plot

In this photograph, Jim Crain inspects the garden of a farm laborer. Each tenant family was given space for a garden plot. The company expected these plots to be kept in a tidy manner. Often the garden crops were planted in tilled rows to make weeding easier.

Dumping cotton

Despite the coming of mechanization in the early twentieth century, much of Lee Wilson & Company's land was maintained by hand labor. Some specific tasks required manual labor, such as the picking of cotton. Here workers dump cotton from their burlap sacks into a wagon. A typical adult worker could pick 150 pounds per day.

A shelter from the sun

Children too young to go to school or to work in the fields often accompanied their parents to the field. Here a young boy seeks relief from the Delta sun in the shade of a wagon.

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