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When slavery was abolished in the Southern United States in 1865, most black slaves had no skills except in farming and no money to buy their own land. As a result, most of the freed slaves stayed on with their past masters, working as sharecroppers. Under the sharecropping arrangement, the freed slave would grow crops on the plantation owned by the white gentleman farmer. He would then share the profits from his crops with the owner, usually in a split of 50%. In many instances the plight of the black sharecropper was worse than when he was a slave. In years of drought or pestilence, when the crops were bad, the slave owner always provided for the slaves and their families, giving them a place to live and food to eat. As a sharecropper, if the crops failed, there was no money to provide the necessities of life. In Sounder, Armstrong presents a realistic picture of the trials and tribulations of an impoverished black sharecropping family at the end of the 19th century.