Most of the cotton South's 1,700,000 tenant farmers live by The Book, and The Book is not the Holy Bible. It is a ledger where "furnish" is entered. Furnish is credit for "side meat" (salt pork), molasses, corn meal, seed, sometimes for a mule and a plow. Landlords, or merchants dependent upon them, run The Book. Without furnish, few tenants could live through the winter, or plant in the spring.

In fall, after The Book is toted, a tenant's crop may not be worth enough to pay for what he owes. If cotton...

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