Discussion Questions

1. Describe agriculture in the Cotton South: What crops did people grow? What particular problems did they encounter because of southern climate and ecology? What agricultural methods, production technologies, and social institutions made cotton profitable?

2. Compare and contrast the Tobacco South with the Cotton South. What similarities and differences in agricultural systems, organization of labor, economic production, and soil exhaustion can you identify?

3. Describe how slaves interacted with the land, both in large-scale agriculture and in their own subsistence (such as garden plots, poultry raising, gathering, hunting, and fishing)? How might slaves' knowledge of crops, animals, and insects have helped them sustain their own lives and culture? In what ways might they have used such knowledge to resist oppression?

4. Historian Eugene Genovese wrote, "Slavery and the plantation system led to agricultural methods that depleted the soil." What is his argument? What are the arguments of Albert Cowdrey and Theodore Steinberg? What is your own explanation for soil depletion in the Cotton South?

5. Discuss the history of the Cotton South after 1893 from the perspective of the boll weevil. In what ways was the boll weevil an actor in the environmental history of the Cotton South? What impact did the weevil have on human life and the environment? How did farmers, government officials, and the U. S. Department of Agriculture's Extension Service try to deal with the weevil?

6. How did life change for black people after the Civil War? How did systems such as share-cropping, farm tenancy, the crop-lien, and stock law systems disproportionately affect blacks and poor whites? What problems did white landowners face?