170 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI Bulldozers, the Ku Klux Klan, and the White League worked to intimidate, threaten, and physically attack African Americans. The contested election of 1875, during which whites purposefully worked to keep African American voters from exercising the franchise under the Mississippi Plan, marked the end of Republican rule in the state. Redemption and the New South On March 28, 1876, Republican Governor Adelbert Ames resigned from his post and was replaced by Democrat John M. Stone. Ames’s resignation came in the wake of a lengthy political battle between the Republican and Democratic parties for control of the state government and represented the end of Reconstruction in the state. Known as conservative Democrats, Redeemers, or Bourbons, the party moved to reestablish white political dominance. Just one year later, the Compromise of 1877 informally ended Reconstruction in the South and left the Republican Party without the federal support upon which it depended during the prior decade to retain power. Democratic dominance of Mississippi politics would last an entire century. From 1882 until 1963, the Republican Party had no nominee for governor, and no Republican held the office until Kirk Fordice won the seat in 1992. Between 1875 and 1902, Democrats worked to dilute the voting power of poor whites and African Americans in a variety of ways. First, voter intimidation and ballot box fraud were common tools utilized to shape the outcome of elections. Disenfranchisement laws limited the ability of both African Americans and poor whites to take part in the political process. The Mississippi Constitution of 1890 was the primary vehicle of disenfranchisement. The new constitution required voters to pay a poll tax of $2 in February of each year and required that all voters “be able to read any section of the constitution of this State; or he shall be able to understand the same when read to him, or give a reasonable interpretation thereof.” It also denied the right to vote to those convicted of a broad range of crimes and required those registering to vote to have lived in the state for two years and for two years in the election district. These conditions drastically reduced the numbers of voters of both races; overall voter turnout in 1888 was 43 percent and declined to slightly less than 19 percent in 1892. In 1890 some 190,000 African Americans registered to vote; by 1892 this number fell to just over 8,000. In 1898, the Supreme Court ruled in Williams v. Mississippi that both the poll tax and the literacy test legal, as they were required of all Mississippians. While the new constitution did not fully eliminate either African American voting or African American officeholders, it made both a rarity and greatly limited the political power of African Americans for the next seventy-five years. In 1880 the majority of the population of the Piney Woods remained white and rural. Like the rest of Mississippi, the residents of the Piney Woods engaged in agricultural production for their main source of income. Farmers planted much the same crops as they had before the war: cotton, corn, and a variety of vegetables. After 1865, significant changes in the structure of land ownership and the status of workers altered the rural dynamic. In the antebellum period, slaves worked the fields of their masters, but the abolition of slavery brought new hope of land ownership and control of their economic destinies. Calls for land redistribution, in which former slaves would receive forty acres and a mule, did not materialize. Landowners needed labor to produce a crop that they could market but lacked the cash to pay laborers. The laborers, in turn, did not have the financial resources to purchase or rent land. The systems that evolved were called sharecropping and tenant farming. Under these systems, poor whites and African Americans worked a plot of land on shares with the landowner. Sharecroppers often had no tools or equipment, which the landowner furnished in turn for a portion of the year’s crop. Sharecroppers retained less than half of the year’s production. Share tenants or tenant farmers provided their own tools and equipment and typically retained two- thirds of their crops. The landowners also provided credit through the crop lien system, which allowed sharecroppers and tenants to purchase goods, food, and supplies using a lien against their crops as credit. Sharecropping also forced landowners into producing an internationally marketable cash crop: cotton. By 1910, Mississippi contained 274,000 farms, of which sharecroppers or tenant farmers worked 66 percent. In the same year, African Americans accounted for three-fourths of all sharecropper and tenant farms. White farmers owned 75 percent of all owner-operated farms statewide. In the Piney Woods counties east of the Pearl River, tenant farmers made up a minority of all farms. African American farm owners outnumbered African American sharecroppers in Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Greene, and Wayne counties in 1910. The poor soil of the region made the land less attractive and allowed African In the Piney Woods counties east of the Pearl River, tenant farmers made up a minority of all farms.