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THE NEGROES OF FARMVILLE, VIRGINIA: A SOCIAL STUDY.
BY W. E. BURGHARDT DU BOIS, PH. D.
For many reasons it would appear that the time is ripe for undertaking a thorough study of the economic condition of the American Negro. Under the direction of the United States Commissioner of Labor the present study was made during July and August, 1897, as the first of a series of investigations of small, well-defined groups of Negroes in various parts of the country.
In this work there has been but the one object of ascertaining, with as near an approach to scientific accuracy as possible, the real condition of the Negro.
PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY.
Prince Edward County is a small irregular quadrangle of about 300 square miles, situated in the middle country of Virginia, between the Piedmont region and tide water, about 57 miles southwest of Richmond, and midway between Petersburg and Lynchburg. This county is thus near the geographical center of the State, and is also in the center of a district that produces seven-eighths of the tobacco crop of Virginia. The county seat is Farmville, a market town of 2,500 inhabitants, situ. ated on the upper waters of the Appomattox.
This county has had an interesting history as regards its population. A century ago it had a population of 8,000, evenly divided between whites and blacks; to-day it has a population of over 14,000, but the increase is almost entirely among the blacks, the number of whites still remaining under 5,000. The following table shows the white and black population of the county at cach census from 1790 to 1890:
POPULATION OF PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, 1790 TO 1890.
Of the total population of the county, less than one-third live in towns of 25 or more inhabitants, leaving the great mass of the people thor. oughly rural and agricultural. Before the late war more than 75 per cent of the farms were of 100 acres or over, and were worked by gangs of from 10 to 50 slaves. (a) By 1870 these farms had become so broken up that nearly 40 per cent of them were less than 50 acres in size. Since then something of a reaction has taken place and more waste land brought under cultivation, so that in 1890 31 per cent of the farms were less than 50 acres in size.
The following table shows the number and per cent of farms in Prince Edward County, according to size, at each census from 1860 to 1890:
XTMBER AND PER CENT OF FARMS IN PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY, BY SIZE, 1860
Size of farms.
Number. Per cent. Nunber. Per cent. Number. Percent. Number. Percent.
At the same time tenants and métayers, who had a large part of the land in cultivation in 1870, have decreased from 1880 to 1990, so that over 70 per cent of the farms are now cultivated by their owners.
The following table, compiled from the United States census returns (report on agriculture), shows for the county the number of farms of
a There were 582 slaveholders in the county in 1860, holdin, 7,311 slaves. Of these slaves 1,289 were held in lots of from 1 to 9 by 303 owners, and the rest by 279 owners. Seo census of 1860.