The story of cotton is the story of America. Listen to the voices of the cotton pickers, the sharecroppers, and the girls from the cotton mills, and discover what it was like to work from dawn till dusk, just to keep Old King Cotton on his throne.

But it wasn’t always that way. When cotton was first grown, the balls of fuzzy fibers had many sticky seeds that had to be picked out by hand, one at a time. Slaves had to pick out shoefuls of seeds before they were fed or allowed to go to bed. Cotton pickers worked long hours from dawn to dusk, dragging heavy sacks that got more and more heavy the more they picked, up and down the rows in the fields. And cotton picking wasn’t just for adults—children as young eight or ten walked those rows dragging those sacks. A man or woman was expected to pick 500 pounds of cotton a day, and a child 150 pounds.

This booktalk was written by librarian and booktalking expert Joni R. Bodart.