Reading Comprehension: Big Picture Questions – Planter-legislators of the post-Civil War..

Big picture questions are questions that focus on the main idea of the passage. This type of question tests on no specific details from the passage. It focuses on understanding the entire passage and processing how the author is trying to put across points. Most students find this question type difficult as students don’t read from an author’s perspective.

Solve the following passage:

Planter-legislators of the post-Civil War southern United States enacted crop lien laws stipulating that those who advanced cash or supplies necessary to plant a crop would receive, as security, a claim, or lien, on the crop produced. In doing so, planters, most of whom were former slaveholders, sought access to credit from merchants and control over nominally free laborers–former slaves freed by the victory of the northern Union over the southern Confederacy in the United States Civil War. They hoped to reassure merchants that despite the emancipation of the slaves, planters would produce crops and pay debts. Planters planned to use their supply credit to control their workers, former slaves who were without money to rent land or buy supplies. Planters imagined continuation of the pre-Civil War economic hierarchy: merchants supplying landlords, landlords supplying laborers, and laborers producing crops from which their scant wages and planters’ profits would come, allowing planters to repay advances. Lien laws frequently had unintended consequences, however, thwarting the planter fantasy of mastery without slavery. The newly freed workers, seeking to become self-employed tenant farmers rather than wage laborers, made direct arrangements with merchants for supplies. Lien laws, the centerpiece of a system designed to create a dependent labor force, became the means for workers, with alternative means of supply advances, to escape that dependence.

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Which of the following best expresses the central idea of the passage?

(A) Planters in the post-Civil War southern United States sought to reinstate the institution of slavery.
(B) Through their decisions regarding supply credit, merchants controlled post-Civil War agriculture.
(C) Lien laws helped to defeat the purpose for which they were originally created.
(D) Although slavery had ended, the economic hierarchy changed little in the post-Civil War southern United States.
(E) Newly freed workers enacted lien laws to hasten the downfall of the plantation economy.

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