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“T” is for Tenantry

South Carolina A to Z larger logo

“T” is for Tenantry. Dating back to the colonial era, tenantry played a significant role in the agrarian society of South Carolina. Tenant farming was a system designed to allow people without capital to gain access to land and work it as their own. In return tenant farmers paid the owners of the land in cash or part of their crops. In antebellum South Carolina there were both White and free Black tenant farmers. After the Civil War tenant farming became more racially divided--the majority of tenants were African American. In 1950 about 63,000 of the 140,000 farms were worked by tenants, The decline accelerated until by 1992, just 7.4 percent of farms were tenant operated. Once an omnipresent feature of the South Carolina landscape, tenantry has become largely a thing of the past.

Dr. Walter Edgar has two programs on South Carolina Public Radio: Walter Edgar's Journal, and South Carolina from A to Z. Dr. Edgar received his B.A. degree from Davidson College in 1965 and his Ph.D. from the University of South Carolina in 1969. After two years in the army (including a tour of duty in Vietnam), he returned to USC as a post-doctoral fellow of the National Archives, assigned to the Papers of Henry Laurens.