"Economic or racism? The rise, persistence, and decline of the truck system on cotton and sugar plantation in Louisiana, 1865-1908"

K. Lurvink (Speaker)

Activity: Lecture / PresentationAcademic


After the abolition of slavery in the South of the United Stated in 1865, plantation owners and former slaves had to adjust to working as free laborers Also, for the first time the former slaves had to take care of buying their own food. In general, they bought their provisions at the plantation or country store. Several sources show there existed a truck system at these stores. In some cases the laborers did not receive money for their work, but tickets who were only redeemable at the plantation store, while the prices were higher than in other stores. Thus, indirectly the employers lowered their employees’ wages. Problematic is that in the historiography about plantations and economics there is no clear debate about the impact, causes, and consequences of the truck system. There is also not much known about the exact position of country and plantation stores in the US South. Only a few authors have conducted research on these stores, while they focus on different aspects, especially on the credit system, and their information is contradictory. In the Netherlands at the end of the 19th until the beginning of the 20th century, the truck system existed in company or factory stores, a.o. in the textile industry. These stores belonged directly or indirectly to the owner of the factory, and the employees were also paid in tickets and forced to buy their provisions in the company store. There is more known about the truck system in the Netherlands than in Louisiana, so a comparison between those two can give us more information about the latter. Did the truck system in Louisiana have an economic cause related to industrialization comparable to the Netherlands? Or it was it also affected by racism, in line with the Jim Crow laws. I aim to discuss these questions, because it will contribute to the historical debate about the relationship between economic development and racism in the southern states of the United States. Because in both the Netherlands and Louisiana the system was challenged by strikes among workers, this paper can possibly shed new light on the truck system in the Netherlands as well.
Period12 Apr 2012
Event titleEuropean Social Science and History Conference
Event typeConference