Cutting and Hauling Sugarcane in Louisiana
American (New Mexico) (American)
Frank Leslie's Illustrated (American)
DimensionsMat : 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm)
: 6 1/4 x 9 1/4 in. (15.88 x 23.5 cm)
: 8 x 11 in. (20.32 x 27.94 cm)
Credit LineHope College Collection
LabelSugarcane was first planted in the United States in the middle of the 18th century, but did not become a major commercial crop here until the 1820s after a new variety of frost-resistant cane was introduced from Indonesia. Planting, harvesting and processing sugarcane was extremely labor intensive, and prior to the Civil War most of that grueling, dangerous work was done by enslaved African Americans. The American sugar industry was almost wiped out during the Civil War but was rebuilt afterwards, again using primarily the labor of African Americans who were often paid low wages and prevented from seeking better jobs by a corrupt system of forced debt obligations. This print depicts a group of African American workers harvesting sugarcane on a plantation in Louisiana, which was the heartland of the American sugar industry at that time. The workers are loading the cut canes onto mule-drawn carts, which will be driven to the sugar mill where the canes will be crushed and their juice boiled and refined to produce sugar.