Field Labor in Virginia

June 7, 1866


Freedmen are willing to work on plantations, but money is scarce. Planters cannot afford to pay workers monthly wages which is why freedmen are hesitant to agree on working contracts.


The assistant superintendent of freedmen's affairs in Chesterfield county, Va., says of the condition of labor in that section, in his report to the assistant commitsioner, that there seems to be a willingness to labor, but an almost universal scarcity of money. The owners of plantations in the county are disposed to hold them intact, and so render themselves unable to pay the laborers their wages monthly. To this is to be attributed the indisposition of the freedmen to make contracts for the year. There is much complaint from the country on account of the non-payment of wages. This difficulty, however, the superintendent thinks, will be much obviated by the proceeds of the present crop. The system of renting hand on shares is very much advancing the interests of all concerned, and seems to establish in the minds of the freedmen a feeling of independence.
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Brooke Beam




“Field Labor in Virginia,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed July 4, 2022,