The Negro Fails as a Master

May 25, 1866


White Southerners account that blacks are unable to be planters on their own. Black farmers struggle to raise successful crops, leaving many no option but to beg or steal food and other necessities.


The Negro Fails as A Master- A letter to the New York Herald from Port Royal, South Carolina, dated the 17th May, says: "The experiment of making the negro a planter on his own account has failed as signally as a hundred other experiments with the negro have failed. Those who had land orders last year, and were in a position to grow twenty or thirty acres of cotton lot* themselves, have this year not a cent to bless themselves with, and have been living on charity all the winter. A planter on Edisto island assured me that every morning from a hundred to a hundred and fifty former owners of these certificates-- (the negroes generally call them, but one darkey called them "stiffens") -- come to him begging for food or work. In the first place, they raised miserable crops; in the next, they were robbed by northern speculators, working under the shadow of the the Bureau, of what little they did raise. We saw one farm that is now cultivated by freedmen themselves, without assistance or supervision, in fair condition; but one only. In fact, the experience of the Sea ; islands is, that the freedmen, properly treated, make excellent laborers, and will work well on shares, but fail as masters."
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Brooke Beam




“The Negro Fails as a Master,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed June 1, 2023,