Dear People of the Future,
My name is Hattie and I am 12 years old. It is currently 1865 and Papa came back here to our home in Georgia recently after having fought in the war. I am so glad he is home and even more so that he is okay. I am also very glad that war is over, even if it did not have the outcome that my family or anyone else around here wanted. I kind of miss our slaves though. There was one named Delilah, she was around my age, and we used to play together whenever she could get a spare moment away from work. However, because of our friendship, I think I understand the slave’s side of things a bit better than my parents. While I know that slaves were a huge part of my family’s cotton business which has now closed, and that we are now becoming poorer by the day because of it, I also know that Delilah is really just a young girl like me, she was never meant to be someones property, there was no reason she should have been whipped ten times more often than I am ever whipped. I know that she is human just like me and that her parents are human too. However, I am still conflicted about my feelings of the results of this war. I am only ten years old and I don’t know everything about the war, but I know that while our slaves are freed, my family is out of a job, the slaves may not have jobs either, or they may be share croppers at another farm, Papa tried to get sharecroppers but it didn’t work out. I don’t know much about sharecroppers but I know that I still sometimes see people who work on nearby farms who look just like slaves, they are being whipped and everything, and I am told they are sharecroppers. What if Delilah is a sharecropper? If so, her life may not be any better than before, if the slaves just went from being slaves to being payed slaves is that really a big enough change to have warranted a war? I’m really not sure. Everyone here in the south has it so ingrained into their brains that slaves are a necessary part of our society that they simply aren’t willing to change even if they technically can’t have slaves, they just get sharecroppers instead. If they were willing to change we wouldn’t needed to have this war in the first place, they just would have realized that what they are doing is wrong and they would have gotten rid of the slaves a long time ago. But then again maybe the war was worth it, maybe it actually will end up forcing the southerners to realize that it was never okay to have slaves, maybe they will give up on share croppers and treat negros the same as everyone else. I seriously doubt that though. But why do I keep referring to southerners as they? I am one myself, and I should be proud of it like Papa tells me to. However, I’m not sure I am; my feelings are so mixed about everything, I don’t know what to feel, but I really don’t think I support my society’s views either. I really hope no one in my family sees this. I am burying it deep in the ground and I hope someone of the future will find it. I hope that by the time you, a person of the future, read this letter, things will have changed, I hope that everybody will be treated equally and that there will be no slavery.
The American Pageant
A Sharecropping Contract: 1882 from Reading Like a Historian