Tuesday, October 29

Sounder & Sharecropping (Novel Study)

After the Civil War ended, the "forty acres and a mule" policy gave newly-freed African-Americans the opportunity to work their own land.  However, President Andrew Johnson ordered that land to be returned to its previous owners as one of the first Reconstruction acts.  This left the freedman in the position having to work another man's land....

Sharecropping is a type of farming in which families rent small plots of land from a landowner in return for a portion of their crop, to be given to the landowner at the end of each year.  In the rural South, it was typically, but not always, practiced by former slaves.  Whether the sharecropping family was black or white, it was still a form of legalized slavery.

In 1865, the Freedman's Bureau, which was created to help former slaves, had to tell them that they could either sign a contract to be a sharecropper or be forced to leave the land.  While it did allow for freedom and autonomy, sharecropping often left families owing more money to the landowner than they were able to repay.

Some families were able to get the money to move up the ladder from sharecropping to owning land, but many were not and were left to perpetuate the cycle.  Though difficult to obtain for many, education was often seen as a way to break the cycle.

Our spine read for this unit is Sounder

Access the complete unit in the American History Novel Studies Bundle!

Includes sixteen unit studies covering American History. Each unit addresses a new topic, spanning the Revolutionary War to Vietnam.  Each unit has introductory text, which will give the student basic background information about the topic at hand.

  • There are photographs and illustrations, and we have also included primary documents when available.
  • After this text, there are featured videos, which augment the background information and help make the topic more accessible for more visual students.
  • You will also find a short list of reading books, including a featured novel that the unit builds upon.
  • There are vocabulary words, places, and people to identify.
  • Reading comprehension, critical thinking questions, and writing assignments are included.
  • We add fun with hands-on activities and extra videos to watch that will bring the era to life.
  • Some units also have cooking projects.

These studies are directed toward upper grades students, but some have resources for younger students so that the whole family can work together. Our family has used unit studies as curriculum for many years, and we hope that your family will enjoy these, too!

Product sample:  Paper Son & Angel Island Immigration  & Within These Lines & Japanese Internment

  • Casualties of War & Vietnam War
  • No Promises in the Wind & the Great Depression
  • Out of the Dust & the Dust Bowl
  • The Watsons Go to Birmingham & Civil Rights
  • Dusty Sourdough & Alaska
  • The King of Mulberry Street & Ellis Island Immigration
  • Paper Son & Angel Island Immigration
  • The Red Menace & McCarthyism
  • Johnny Tremain & Faces of the American Revolution
  • Sounder & Sharecropping
  • World War II Code Talkers
  • Flashback Four: Hamilton-Burr Duel
  • Within These Lines & Japanese Internment Camps
  • Flashback Four: Titanic Mission
  • Flashback Four: Lincoln Project
  • The Diviners / The Great Gatsby & Roaring Twenties


  1. So sad the many laws, rules, and regulations put in place to continue to punish the former slaves and their descendants.

    1. It truly was a hard time. I believe it teaching the kids about all of history, though, not just the pretty parts. We have to learn and remember so that we don't repeat mistakes.


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