The metempsychosis of King Cotton

John Fraser Hart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The body of King Cotton lies amouldering in the grave, but his soul has been metempsychosized. Cotton dominated the agriculture of the South in 1929, the peak year, when 1,719,165 farmers grew 42,579,522 acres of the crop. Few grew more than 15 acres, or produced more than one-third of a bale per acre. They grew it in small patches with backbreaking hand labor, especially for the tasks of chopping and picking. In 1997 only 24,860 farmers in the South grew cotton, but they grew 11,799,225 acres. They had consolidated the erstwhile patches into large open fields. They averaged 425 acres of cotton, and produced better than a bale per acre. Agrichemicals and machines had replaced hand labor, and one-fifth of the crop was irrigated. The boll weevil eradication program, which has spread outward from northeastern North Carolina, has decimated production costs, and the price had been favorable. Inadequate gin capacity has forced farmers to shift from field wagons to modules, and a new cotton landscape has been created in the South.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-105
Number of pages13
JournalSoutheastern Geographer
Issue number1
StatePublished - May 2000


  • Cotton
  • Farming
  • Land use
  • Metempsychosis
  • South


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