REAL TALK – The History of the Word ‘Cracker’


Editor’s note: From deep in the archives BILLY SUNDAY drops another ReMix jewel on your plate. There’s a reason that we say you can’t handle the truth.

When nearly everyone hears this word directed at someone as an epithet, they immediately think of the racial component associated with the word. This pretty much works the same way for the word ‘nigger,’ unless it is two blacks speaking to one another. What most people don’t know, since they never went to school anyhoo, is that the words ‘nigger’ and ‘cracker’ were never created to describe an insult to one’s ethnicity. These words were created to identify one’s vocation.

The ‘cracker’ was the production supervisor on a plantation or farm. It was his job to monitor the slaves and keep them from slacking off. As he sat on his horse and trotted around the plantation, he might lash his whip on anyone he felt was unproductive. Many times he would use his whip purely as a means of intimidation, to let all the plantation workers know that it was going to be one of those lifetimes in which they would wish they had never been born.

The slaves did their best to avoid beatings from these enforcers, but they could not escape the best part of the American chattel slavery system: violence was often random and indiscriminate. This kept the slaves in a constant state of confusion and fear. The slaves began to call these enforcers ‘crackers’ because of the sound that the whip made when it was lashed across someone’s sweat drenched skin. The slaves would warn each other of the ‘crackers’ presence by saying the word rapidly and repeating it many times. Imagine the croaking of a frog. In this way, slaves developed a communication system that was undecipherable to the plantations’ managers.

At first, a typical ‘cracker’ might be the land owner and his male children, but as the plantations grew, ‘crackers’ were hired from the many European immigrants that came to America to escape the poverty and famine in their countries. Often times these new immigrants were quartered with the slaves and there are many instances of hired immigrants rejecting the task of violent enforcement against their roommates. Those immigrants would find themselves out of work and, worse still, disenfranchised from within their own community. In this way the landowners forced these immigrants to play their position, or risk being ostracized, destitute and literally worse off than the slaves.

Really large plantations even used other slaves as ‘crackers,’ which became a supremely effective tool for controlling the worker population. These slaves/’crackers’ knew which workers to target with intimidation and violence in order to maintain control and they even knew the slaves’ secret languages and dialects, so they could serve as effective translators for their managers and the landowners This is the most important fact we need to remember. The Black ‘cracker’ was put in place to regulate the Black populus. All the Black ‘cracker’ cared for was making sure that he secured a steady meal for himself. He would do whatever he was told by the manager or the big boss, the landowner.

Today these ‘crackers’ manifest themselves in many different ways, but their ultimate goal remains the same: to secure a steady meal for themselves. They receive their reward by helping to control the slaves through various measures using intimidation, violence and acting as translators to the owners.

Some might call this, ‘Getting Rich or Dying While Trying’.

6 Responses to “REAL TALK – The History of the Word ‘Cracker’”

  1. 40. Brown Rapp says:

    Even their slurs are empowering… Supremacy is a bitch.

  2. sangano says:


  3. Skeeter Valentine says:

    i dont know what to think anymore…

  4. okeedokee says:

    this is very interesting…i thought that it had to do with how the caucasian skin would crack and peel when they were out in the sun…”you know…GOOD Black, Don’t crack!”

  5. me says:

    honestly im starting to really hate white people. as strong as the word hate is i came to the conclusion that its the only way to describe my feelings towards those bastards. A young nigga got it bad when your brown. America is a set up, wake up people!!!

  6. Wow. I’ve never heard that story told before. And I’m from Alabama.

    The truth is that I never experienced racism until I moved from Alabama to Georgia in 1995 to go to college. Those country highways that run through the Gulf Coast are severely segregated. Call me a survivor.

    Anyway, good looks on this post. I’m late as hell, but that’s what catalog links are for.

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