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Slavery in the United States

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Slavery in the United States

An animation showing when United States territories and states forbade or allowed slavery, 1789–1861.

Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of chattel slavery that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in British North America from early colonial days, and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. When the United States was founded, even though some free persons of color were present, the status of slave was largely coincident with being of African descent, creating a system and legacy in which race played an influential role. After the Revolutionary War, abolitionist laws and sentiment gradually spread in the Northern states, while the rapid expansion of the cotton industry from 1800 led to the Southern states strongly identifying with slavery, and attempting to extend it into the new Western territories. The United States was polarized by slavery into slave and free states along the Mason-Dixon Line, which separated Maryland (slave) and Pennsylvania (free).

Although the international slave trade was prohibited from 1808, internal slave-trading continued, and the slave population would eventually peak at four million before abolition.[1][2]

As the West opened up, the Southern states believed they needed to keep a balance between the numbers of slave and free states, in order to maintain a balance of power in Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a platform of no new slave states, the South finally broke away to form the Confederacy. This marked the start of the Civil War, which caused a huge disruption of the slave economy, with many slaves either escaping or being liberated by the Union armies. The war effectively ended slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment (December 1865) formally outlawed the institution throughout the United States.

Slave auction block, Green Hill Plantation, Campbell County, Virginia, Historic American Buildings Survey


  • Colonial America 1
  • Revolutionary era 2
    • Enslaved people inside Britain 2.1
    • Lord Dunmore's proclamation 2.2
  • Revolutionary War and freedom 3
    • Constitution of the United States 3.1
  • 1790 to 1850 4
    • Northern abolition 4.1
    • Post-revolution Southern manumissions 4.2
    • Internal slave trade and forced migration 4.3
    • Treatment 4.4
    • Slave codes 4.5
    • Abolitionist movement 4.6
    • High demand and smuggling 4.7
    • War of 1812 4.8
    • Religion 4.9
    • Nat Turner 4.10
    • Anti Literacy 4.11
    • Economics 4.12
      • Efficiency of slaves 4.12.1
      • Prices of slaves 4.12.2
      • Effects of slavery in Southern development 4.12.3
  • 1850s 5
    • Bleeding Kansas 5.1
    • Dred Scott 5.2
  • Civil War and emancipation 6
    • 1860 presidential election 6.1
    • Civil War 6.2
    • Emancipation Proclamation 6.3
    • The end of slavery 6.4
  • Reconstruction to present 7
    • Convict leasing 7.1
    • Educational issues 7.2
    • Apologies 7.3
  • Justification 8
    • "A necessary evil" 8.1
    • "A positive good" 8.2
  • Native Americans 9
    • Inter-tribal slavery 9.1
    • Post-Emancipation Proclamation slavery 9.2
  • Black slaveholders 10
  • Barbary pirates 11
  • Distribution 12
    • Distribution of slaves 12.1
    • Distribution of slaveholders 12.2
  • Historiography 13
  • See also 14
    • History of slavery in individual states 14.1
  • Notes 15
  • Bibliography 16
    • National and comparative studies 16.1
    • State and local studies 16.2
      • Video 16.2.1
    • Historiography 16.3
    • Primary sources 16.4
  • Further reading 17
  • External links 18

Colonial America

In the early years of the Chesapeake Bay settlements, it was difficult to attract and retain laborers, and there was a high mortality rate.[3] Most laborers came from Britain as indentured servants, who signed contracts of indenture to pay with work for their passage, their upkeep and training, usually on a farm, as the colonies were highly agricultural. These indentured servants were young people who intended to become permanent residents. Some masters treated them as well or as poorly as family members. In some cases, convicted criminals were transported to the colonies as indentured servants, rather than being imprisoned. Many Scots-Irish, Irish and Germans came in the 18th century. The indentured servants were not slaves. The planters found that the major problem with indentured servants was that many left after several years, just when they had become skilled and the most valuable workers. In addition, an improving economy in England in the late 17th and early 18th centuries meant that fewer workers chose to go to the colonies. Historians estimate that more than half of all white immigrants to the English colonies of North America during the 17th and 18th centuries came as indentured servants. The number of indentured servants among immigrants was particularly high in the South.[3]

Destination of Enslaved Africans (1519–1867)[1]
Destination Percentage
Portuguese America 38.5%
British America (minus North America) 18.4%
Spanish Empire 17.5%
French Americas 13.6%
British North America 6.5%
English Americas 3.3%
Dutch West Indies 2.0%
Danish West Indies 0.3%

The first 19 or so Africans arrived ashore near the English colony of Jamestown, Virginia, in 1619, brought by Dutch traders who had seized them from a captured Spanish slave ship. The Spanish usually baptized slaves in Africa before embarking them. As English law considered baptized Christians exempt from slavery, these Africans were treated as indentured servants who joined about 1,000 English indentured servants already in the colony. They were freed after a prescribed period and given the use of land and supplies by their former masters. The historian Ira Berlin noted that what he called the "charter generation" was sometimes made up of mixed-race men who were indentured servants, and whose ancestry was African and Iberian. They were descendants of African women and Portuguese and Spanish men who worked in African ports as traders or facilitators in the slave trade. For example, like Anthony Johnson, who arrived in 1621 as an indentured servant, some Africans achieved freedom and became property owners. The transformation of the status of Africans from indentured servitude to slavery—whereby they could never leave—happened gradually. There were no laws regarding slavery early in Virginia's history. But, in 1640, a Virginia court sentenced John Punch to slavery after he attempted to flee his service.[4] The two whites with whom he fled were only sentenced to an additional year of their indenture, and three years service to the colony.[5] This marked the first legal sanctioning of slavery in the English colonies and was one of the first legal distinctions made between Europeans and Africans.[4][6]

Slaves processing tobacco in 17th-century Virginia
Enslaved people imported to American colonies[7]
Date Numbers
1620–1700 21,000
1701–1760 189,000
1761–1770 63,000
1771–1790 56,000
1791–1800 79,000
1801–1810 124,000[8]
1810–1865 51,000
Total 597,000

In 1654, John Casor, a black indentured servant, was the first man to be declared a slave in a civil case. He had claimed to an officer that his owner, free black colonist Anthony Johnson, had held him past his indenture term. A neighbor, Robert Parker told Johnson that if he did not release Casor, Parker would testify in court to this fact; which under local laws, may have resulted in Johnson losing some of his headright lands. Under duress, Johnson freed Casor, who entered into a seven years' indenture with Parker. Feeling cheated, Johnson sued Parker to repossess Casor. A Northampton County court ruled for Johnson, declaring that Parker illegally was detaining Casor from his rightful master who legally held him "for the duration of his life".[9]

Since persons with African origins were not English subjects by birth, they were considered foreigners and generally outside English common law. Elizabeth Key Grinstead, a mixed-race woman, successfully gained her freedom and that of her son in the Virginia courts in 1656 by making her case as the daughter of the free Englishman Thomas Key. She was also a baptized Christian. Her attorney and her son's father was also an English subject, which may have helped her case.[10]

Slaves on a South Carolina plantation (The Old Plantation, c. 1790)

Shortly after the Elizabeth Key trial and similar challenges, in 1662 Virginia passed a law adopting the principle of partus sequitur ventrum (called partus, for short), stating that any children of an enslaved mother would take her status and be born into slavery, regardless if the father were a freeborn Englishman. This was a reversal of common law practice, which ruled that children of English subjects took the status of the father. The change institutionalized the power relationships between slaveowners and slave women, freed the white men from the legal responsibility to acknowledge or financially support their mixed-race children, and somewhat confined the open scandal of mixed-race children and miscegenation to within the slave quarters.

The Virginia Slave codes of 1705 further defined as slaves those people imported from nations that were not Christian, as well as Native Americans who were sold to colonists by other Native Americans or captured by Europeans during village raids.[11] This established the basis for the legal enslavement of any non-Christian foreigner.

Ledger of sale of 118 slaves, Charleston, South Carolina, c. 1754

In 1735, the

  • "Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936–1938", American Memory, Library of Congress
  • "Voices from the Days of Slavery", recordings of interviews of 23 former slaves, 1932–1975, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress
  • Report of the Brown University Steering Committee on Slavery and Justice
  • "Slavery and the Making of America", PBS– WNET, New York (4-Part Series)
  • Wahl, Jenny. "Slavery in the United States", EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. March 26, 2008, Economic History Net
  • North American Slave Narratives, Documents of the American South, University of North Carolina
  • "Slavery and Civil War digital collection", scanned original documents including bills of sale, letters related to war issues, et al., Grand Valley State University Library
  • How Slavery Really Ended in America New York Times.
  • Bill Bigelow, “The Color Line”, 6-page lesson plan for high school students, Zinn Education Project/Rethinking Schools
  • Gayle Olson-Raymer, “The First Slaves”, 15-page teaching guide for high school students, Zinn Education Project/Rethinking Schools

External links

Literary and cultural criticism
  • Before Freedom When I Just Can Remember: Twenty-seven Oral Histories of Former South Carolina Slaves Belinda Hurmence, 1989. ISBN 0-89587-069-X
  • Before Freedom: Forty-Eight Oral Histories of Former North & South Carolina Slaves. Belinda Hurmence. Mentor Books: 1990. ISBN 0-451-62781-4
  • God Struck Me Dead, Voices of Ex-Slaves Clifton H. Johnson ISBN 0-8298-0945-7
Oral histories of ex-slaves
  • Singleton, Theresa A., "The Archaeology of Slavery in North America" Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 24, (1995), pp. 119–140
  • McCarthy, Thomas. "Coming to Terms with Our Past, Part II: On the Morality and Politics of Reparations for Slavery" Political Theory , Vol. 32, No. 6 (Dec., 2004) , pp. 750–772
Scholarly journals

Further reading

  • Albert, Octavia V. Rogers. The House of Bondage Or Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves. Oxford University Press, 1991. Primary sources with commentary. ISBN 0-19-506784-3
    • The House of Bondage, or, Charlotte Brooks and Other Slaves, Original and Life-Like complete text of original 1890 edition, along with cover & title page images, at website of University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • Berlin, Ira, Joseph P. Reidy, and Leslie S. Rowlands, eds. Freedom: A Documentary History of Emancipation, 1861–1867 5 vol Cambridge University Press, 1982. Very large collection of primary sources regarding the end of slavery
  • Berlin, Ira, Marc Favreau, and Steven F. Miller, eds. Remembering Slavery: African Americans Talk About Their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Emancipation The New Press: 2007. ISBN 978-1-59558-228-7
  • Blassingame, John W., ed. Slave Testimony: Two Centuries of Letters, Speeches, Interviews, and Autobiographies.Louisiana State University Press, 1977.
  • Burke, Diane Mutti, On Slavery's Border: Missouri's Small Slaveholding Households, 1815–1865,
  • De Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. (1994 Edition by Alfred A Knopf, Inc) ISBN 0-679-43134-9
  • A Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (1845) (Project Gutenberg), (Audio book at
  • "The Heroic Slave." Autographs for Freedom. Ed. Julia Griffiths Boston: Jewett and Company, 1853. 174–239. Available at the Documenting the American South website.
  • Frederick Douglass My Bondage and My Freedom (1855) (Project Gutenberg)
  • Frederick Douglass Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (1892)
  • Frederick Douglass Collected Articles Of Frederick Douglass, A Slave (Project Gutenberg)
  • Frederick Douglass: Autobiographies by Frederick Douglass, Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Editor. (Omnibus of all three) ISBN 0-940450-79-8
  • Litwack, Leon Been in the Storm So Long: The Aftermath of Slavery. (1979) Winner of the 1981 National Book Award for history and the 1980 Pulitzer Prize for History.
  • Litwack, Leon North of Slavery: The Negro in the Free States, 1790–1860 (University of Chicago Press: 1961)
  • Document: "List Negroes at Spring Garden with their ages taken January 1829" (title taken from document)
  • Missouri History Museum Archives Slavery Collection
  • Rawick, George P., ed. The American Slave: A Composite Autobiography . 19 vols. Greenwood Publishing Company, 1972. Collection of WPA interviews made in 1930s with ex-slaves

Primary sources

  • Ayers, Edward L. "The American Civil War, Emancipation, and Reconstruction on the World Stage," OAH Magazine of History, Jan 2006, Vol. 20, Issue 1, pp. 54–60
  • Berlin, Ira. "American Slavery in History and Memory and the Search for Social Justice," Journal of American History, March 2004, Vol. 90, Issue 4, pp. 1251–1268
  • Boles, John B. and Evelyn T. Nolen, eds., Interpreting Southern History: Historiographical Essays in Honor of Sanford W. Higginbotham (1987).
  • Brown, Vincent. "Social Death and Political Life in the Study of Slavery," American Historical Review, Dec 2009, Vol. 114, Issue 5, pp. 1231–49, examined historical and sociological studies since the influential 1982 book Slavery and Social Death by American sociologist Orlando Patterson
  • Campbell, Gwyn. "Children and slavery in the new world: A review," Slavery & Abolition, Aug 2006, Vol. 27, Issue 2, pp. 261–85
  • Dirck, Brian. "Changing Perspectives on Lincoln, Race, and Slavery," OAH Magazine of History, Oct 2007, Vol. 21, Issue 4, pp. 9–12
  • Fogel, Robert W. The Slavery Debates, 1952–1990: A Retrospective (2007)
  • Frey, Sylvia R. "The Visible Church: Historiography of African American Religion since Raboteau," Slavery & Abolition, Jan 2008, Vol. 29 Issue 1, pp. 83–110
  • Hettle, Wallace. "White Society in the Old South: The Literary Evidence Reconsidered," Southern Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of the South, Fall/Winter 2006, Vol. 13, Issue 3/4, pp 29–44
  • King, Richard H. "Marxism and the Slave South", American Quarterly 29 (1977), 117–31. focus on Genovese
  • Kolchin, Peter. "American Historians and Antebellum Southern Slavery, 1959–1984", in William J. Cooper, Michael F. Holt, and John McCardell, eds., A Master's Due: Essays in Honor of David Herbert Donald (1985), 87–111
  • Laurie, Bruce. "Workers, Abolitionists, and the Historians: A Historiographical Perspective," Labor: Studies in Working Class History of the Americas, Winter 2008, Vol. 5, Issue 4, pp .17–55, studies of white workers
  • Neely Jr., Mark E. "Lincoln, Slavery, and the Nation," Journal of American History, Sept 2009, Vol. 96 Issue 2, pp. 456–58
  • Parish; Peter J. Slavery: History and Historians Westview Press. 1989
  • Penningroth, Dylan. "Writing Slavery's History," OAH Magazine of History, Apr 2009, Vol. 23 Issue 2, pp. 13–20, basic overview
  • Sidbury, James. "Globalization, Creolization, and the Not-So-Peculiar Institution," Journal of Southern History, Aug 2007, Vol. 73, Issue 3, pp. 617–30, on colonial era
  • Stuckey, P. Sterling. "Reflections on the Scholarship of African Origins and Influence in American Slavery," Journal of African American History, Fall 2006, Vol. 91 Issue 4, pp. 425–443
  • Sweet, John Wood. "The Subject of the Slave Trade: Recent Currents in the Histories of the Atlantic, Great Britain, and Western Africa," Early American Studies, An Interdisciplinary Journal, Spring 2009, Vol. 7 Issue 1, pp. 1–45
  • Tadman, Michael. "The Reputation of the Slave Trader in Southern History and the Social Memory of the South," American Nineteenth Century History, Sep 2007, Vol. 8, Issue 3, pp. 247–71
  • Tulloch, Hugh. The Debate on the American Civil War Era (1998), ch. 2–4


  • Jenkins, Gary (director). Negroes To Hire (Lifedocumentaries, 2010); 52 minutes DVD; on slavery in Missouri


  • Fields, Barbara J. Slavery and Freedom on the Middle Ground: Maryland During the Nineteenth Century Yale University Press, 1985.
  • Clayton E. Jewett and John O. Allen; Slavery in the South: A State-By-State History Greenwood Press, 2004
  • Jennison, Watson W. Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750–1860 (University Press of Kentucky; 2012)
  • Kulikoff, Alan. Tobacco and Slaves: The Development of Southern Cultures in the Chesapeake, 1680–1800 University of North Carolina Press, 1986.
  • Minges, Patrick N.; Slavery in the Cherokee Nation: The Keetoowah Society and the Defining of a People, 1855–1867 2003 deals with Indian slave owners.
  • Mohr, Clarence L. On the Threshold of Freedom: Masters and Slaves in Civil War Georgia University of Georgia Press, 1986.
  • Mutti Burke, Diane (2010). On Slavery's Border: Missouri's Small Slaveholding Households, 1815–1865. University of Georgia Press.  
  • Mooney, Chase C. Slavery in Tennessee Indiana University Press, 1957.
  • Olwell, Robert. Masters, Slaves, & Subjects: The Culture of Power in the South Carolina Low Country, 1740–1790 Cornell University Press, 1998.
  • Reidy, Joseph P. From Slavery to Agrarian Capitalism in the Cotton Plantation South, Central Georgia, 1800–1880 University of North Carolina Press, 1992.
  • Ripley, C. Peter. Slaves and Freemen in Civil War Louisiana Louisiana State University Press, 1976.
  • Rivers, Larry Eugene. Slavery in Florida: Territorial Days to Emancipation University Press of Florida, 2000.
  • Sellers, James Benson; Slavery in Alabama University of Alabama Press, 1950
  • Sydnor, Charles S. Slavery in Mississippi. 1933
  • Takagi, Midori. Rearing Wolves to Our Own Destruction: Slavery in Richmond, Virginia, 1782–1865 University Press of Virginia, 1999.
  • Taylor, Joe Gray. Negro Slavery in Louisiana. Louisiana Historical Society, 1963.
  • Trexler, Harrison Anthony. Slavery in Missouri, 1804–1865 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1914) online edition
  • Wood, Peter H. Black Majority: Negroes in Colonial South Carolina from 1670 through the Stono Rebellion W.W. Norton & Company, 1974.

State and local studies

  • Berlin, Ira. Generations of Captivity: A History of African American Slaves. (2003) ISBN 0-674-01061-2.
  • Berlin, Ira. Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America. Harvard University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-674-81092-9
  • Berlin, Ira and Ronald Hoffman, eds. Slavery and Freedom in the Age of the American Revolution University Press of Virginia, 1983. essays by scholars
  • Blackmon, Douglas A. Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II. (2008) ISBN 978-0-385-50625-0.
  • Blassingame, John W. The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South Oxford University Press, 1979. ISBN 0-19-502563-6.
  • David, Paul A. and Temin, Peter. "Slavery: The Progressive Institution?", Journal of Economic History. Vol. 34, No. 3 (September 1974)
  • David Brion Davis. Inhuman Bondage: The Rise and Fall of Slavery in the New World (2006)
  • Elkins, Stanley. Slavery : A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life. University of Chicago Press, 1976. ISBN 0-226-20477-4
  • Fehrenbacher, Don E. Slavery, Law, and Politics: The Dred Scott Case in Historical Perspective Oxford University Press, 1981
  • Fogel, Robert W. Without Consent or Contract: The Rise and Fall of American Slavery W.W. Norton, 1989. Econometric approach
  • Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (2010), Pulitzer Prize excerpt and text search
  • Franklin, John Hope and Schweninger. Runaway Slaves: Rebels on the Plantation. (1999) ISBN 0-19-508449-7.
  • Gallay, Alan. The Indian Slave Trade (2002).
  • Genovese, Eugene D. Roll, Jordan, Roll: The World the Slaves Made Pantheon Books, 1974.
  • Genovese, Eugene D. The Political Economy of Slavery: Studies in the Economy and Society of the Slave South (1967)
  • Genovese, Eugene D. and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Fruits of Merchant Capital: Slavery and Bourgeois Property in the Rise and Expansion of Capitalism (1983)
  • Hahn, Steven. "The Greatest Slave Rebellion in Modern History: Southern Slaves in the American Civil War." Southern Spaces (2004)
  • Higginbotham, A. Leon, Jr. In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period. Oxford University Press, 1978. ISBN 0-19-502745-0
  • Horton, James Oliver and Horton, Lois E. Slavery and the Making of America. (2005) ISBN 0-19-517903-X
  • Kolchin, Peter. American Slavery, 1619–1877 Hill and Wang, 1993. Survey
  • Litwack, Leon F. Trouble in Mind: Black Southerners in the Age of Jim Crow. (1998) ISBN 0-394-52778-X.
  • Marable, Manning, How capitalism underdeveloped Black America: problems in race, political economy, and society South End Press, 2000
  • Mason, Matthew. Slavery and Politics in the Early American Republic. (2006) ISBN 978-0-8078-3049-9.
  • Moon, Dannell, "Slavery", article in Encyclopedia of rape, Merril D. Smith (Ed.), Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004
  • Moore, Wilbert Ellis, American Negro Slavery and Abolition: A Sociological Study, Ayer Publishing, 1980
  • Morgan, Edmund S. American Slavery, American Freedom: The Ordeal of Colonial Virginia W.W. Norton, 1975.
  • Morris, Thomas D. Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619–1860 University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • Oakes, James. The Ruling Race: A History of American Slaveholders. (1982) ISBN 0-393-31705-6.
  • Ransom, Roger L. Was It Really All That Great to Be a Slave? Agricultural History, Vol. 48, No. 4 (October 1974)
  • Scarborough, William K. The Overseer: Plantation Management in the Old South (1984)
  • Stampp, Kenneth M. The Peculiar Institution: Slavery in the Ante-Bellum South (1956) Survey
  • Stampp, Kenneth M. "Interpreting the Slaveholders' World: a Review." Agricultural History 1970 44(4): 407–12. ISSN 0002-1482
  • Tadman, Michael. Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.
  • Wright, W. D. Historians and Slavery; A Critical Analysis of Perspectives and Irony in American Slavery and Other Recent Works Washington, D.C.: University Press of America (1978)
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Slave Resistance and Rebellion. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2007.
  • Rodriguez, Junius P., ed. Encyclopedia of Emancipation and Abolition in the Transatlantic World. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 2007.

National and comparative studies


  1. ^ a b Stephen D. Behrendt, David Richardson, and David Eltis,  
  2. ^ Introduction – Social Aspects of the Civil War, National Park Service.
  3. ^ a b Richard Hofstadter, "White Servitude", n.d., Montgomery College. Retrieved January 11, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Donoghue, John (2010). Out of the Land of Bondage": The English Revolution and the Atlantic Origins of Abolition. The American Historical Review. 
  5. ^ Higginbotham, A. Leon (1975). In the Matter of Color: Race and the American Legal Process: The Colonial Period. Greenwood Press. 
  6. ^ Tom Costa (2011). "Runaway Slaves and Servants in Colonial Virginia".  
  7. ^ Source: Miller and Smith (eds), Dictionary of American Slavery (1988), p. 678.
  8. ^ Includes 10,000 to Louisiana before 1803.
  9. ^ William J. Wood. "The Illegal Beginning of American Negro Slavery," American Bar Association Journal, January 1970.
  10. ^ Taunya Lovell Banks, "Dangerous Woman: Elizabeth Key's Freedom Suit – Subjecthood and Racialized Identity in Seventeenth Century Colonial Virginia", Digital Commons Law, University of Maryland Law School. Retrieved April 21, 2009.
  11. ^ a b c d e Tony Seybert (4 Aug 2004). "Slavery and Native Americans in British North America and the United States: 1600 to 1865". Slavery in America. Archived from the original on 4 August 2004. Retrieved 14 June 2011. 
  12. ^ Wilson, Thomas D., The Oglethorpe Plan: Enlightenment Design in Savannah and Beyond, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2012, chapter 3
  13. ^ Scott, Thomas Allan (July 1995). Cornerstones of Georgia history. University of Georgia Press.  
  14. ^ "Thurmond: Why Georgia's founder fought slavery". Retrieved October 4, 2009. 
  15. ^ "It is shocking to human Nature, that any Race of Mankind and their Posterity should be sentanc'd to perpetual Slavery; nor in Justice can we think otherwise of it, that they are thrown amongst us to be our Scourge one Day or other for our Sins: And as Freedom must be as dear to them as it is to us, what a Scene of Horror must it bring about! And the longer it is unexecuted, the bloody Scene must be the greater." – Inhabitants of New Inverness, s:Petition against the Introduction of Slavery
  16. ^ "The First Black Americans", Hashaw, Tim; US News and World Report, 1/21/07
  17. ^ a b "Slavery in America", Encyclopædia Britannica's Guide to Black History. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  18. ^ Trinkley, M. "Growth of South Carolina's Slave Population", South Carolina Information Highway. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  19. ^ Morison and Commager: Growth of the American Republic, pp. 212–220.
  20. ^ Michael Tadman, "The Demographic Cost of Sugar: Debates on Slave Societies and Natural Increase in the Americas," The American Historical Review, December 2000, 105:5 online
  21. ^ Gomez, Michael A: Exchanging Our Country Marks: The Transformation of African Identities in the Colonial and Antebellum South, p. 29. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina, 1998.
  22. ^ Rucker, Walter C. (2006). The River Flows On: Black Resistance, Culture, and Identity Formation in Early America. LSU Press. p. 126.  
  23. ^
  24. ^ Selig, Robert A. "The Revolution's Black Soldiers". Retrieved October 18, 2007. 
  25. ^ Scribner, Robert L. (1983). Revolutionary Virginia, the Road to Independence. University of Virginia Press. p. xxiv.  
  26. ^ James L. Roark et al. (2008). The American Promise, Volume I: To 1877: A History of the United States. Macmillan. p. 206.  
  27. ^ Peter Kolchin, American Slavery: 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1994, p. 73.
  28. ^ Finkelman, Paul (2007). "The Abolition of The Slave Trade". New York Public Library. Retrieved 25 June 2014. 
  29. ^ Kolchin 1993, p. 79.
  30. ^ Section 2 of Article I provides in part: "Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states . . . by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three-fifths of all other persons."
  31. ^ a b c "Interview: James Oliver Horton: Exhibit Reveals History of Slavery in New York City", PBS Newshour, January 25, 2007,. Retrieved February 11, 2012.
  32. ^ a b Peter Kolchin (1993), American Slavery, pp. 77–78, 81.
  33. ^ a b "Regulation of the Trade".  
  34. ^ "King Cotton: Dramatic Growth of the Cotton Trade", New York Divided: Slavery and the Civil War, New-York Historical Society, accessed May 12, 2012
  35. ^ a b Peter Kolchin (1993), American Slavery, p. 81.
  36. ^ "Africans in America" – PBS Series – Part 4 (2007).
  37. ^ Randall M. Miller, John David Smith. "Gradual abolition", Dictionary of Afro-American Slavery, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1997, p. 471.
  38. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, p. 104.
  39. ^ Paul Finkelman, Encyclopedia of American civil liberties (2006) Volume 1, p. 845 online.
  40. ^ Kolchin (1993), American Slavery, p. 78.
  41. ^ Kolchin (1993), American Slavery, p. 87.
  42. ^ The People's Chronology, 1994, by James Trager.
  43. ^ Kolchin p. 96. In 1834, Carolinas had fallen to just 10% of the national total. Berlin p. 166.
  44. ^ a b c d Marcyliena H. Morgan (2002). Language, Discourse and power in African American Culture, p. 20. Cambridge University Press, 2002.
  45. ^ 1860 Census Results, The Civil War Home Page.
  46. ^ "American Civil War Census Data". Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  47. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 168–69. Kolchin p. 96.
  48. ^ Kolchin p. 96.
  49. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 161–62.
  50. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 168–69. Kolchin p. 96. Kolchin notes that Fogel and Engerman maintained that 84% of slaves moved with their families but "most other scholars assign far greater weight ... to slave sales." Ransome (p. 582) notes that Fogel and Engermann based their conclusions on the study of some counties in Maryland in the 1830s and attempted to extrapolate that analysis as reflective of the entire South over the entire period.
  51. ^ Allan Kulikoff, The Agrarian Origins of American Capitalism, Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 1992, pp. 226–69.
  52. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 166–69.
  53. ^ Kolchin, p. 98.
  54. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 168–71.
  55. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, p. 174.
  56. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 175–77.
  57. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, pp. 179–80.
  58. ^ Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1999.
  59. ^ Johnson (1999), Soul by Soul, p. 2.
  60. ^ Mark Cheathem, "Frontiersman or Southern Gentleman? Newspaper Coverage of Andrew Jackson during the 1828 Presidential Campaign," The Readex Report (2014) 9#3 online
  61. ^ A. Aguirre, Jr., "Slave executions in the United States," The Social Science Journal, vol. 36, issue 1 (1999), pp. 1–31.
  62. ^ Davis, p. 124.
  63. ^ Christian, Charles M., and Bennet, Sari, Black Saga: the African American experience: a chronology, Basic Civitas Books, 1998, p. 90.
  64. ^
  65. ^ Kathleen Collins, "The Scourged Back," History of Photography 9 (January 1985): 43–45.
  66. ^ Rodriguez, pp 616–17.
  67. ^ Burke, p. 155.
  68. ^ Morris, Thomas D., Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619–1860, p. 347.
  69. ^ Andrew Fede (2012). People Without Rights (Routledge Revivals): An Interpretation of the Fundamentals of the Law of Slavery in the U.S. South. Routledge, p. 79. ISBN 1136716106
  70. ^ Thomas D. Morris (1999). Southern Slavery and the Law, 1619–1860. University of North Carolina Press, p. 172. ISBN 0807864307
  71. ^ Moore, p. 114.
  72. ^ Moore, p. 118.
  73. ^ Clinton, Catherine, Scholastic Encyclopedia of the Civil War, New York: Scholastic Inc., 1999, p. 8.
  74. ^ Lawrence M. Friedman (2005). A History of American Law: Third Edition. Simon and Schuster, p. 163. ISBN 0743282582
  75. ^ Davis, Floyd James (2001). Who Is Black?: One Nation's Definition. Penn State Press. p. 38.  
  76. ^ a b c Moon, p. 234.
  77. ^ Marable, p. 74.
  78. ^ "Memoirs of Madison Hemings". PBS Frontline. 
  79. ^ Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro SlaveryThomas Weiss, Review: , Project 2001: Significant Works in Economic History, (Economic
  80. ^  
  81. ^ "Slaves and the Courts, 1740–1860 Slave code for the District of Columbia, 1860." The Library of Congress. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
  82. ^ .Africa Squadron: The U.S. Navy and the Slave Trade, 1842–1861
  83. ^ a b c "Background on conflict in Liberia".  Paul Cuffee, a successful New England black shipping man, financed and captained a voyage for American blacks in 1815–1816 to British-ruled Sierra Leone. Cuffee believed that African Americans could more easily "rise to be a people" in Africa than in the U.S. because of its slavery and limits on black rights. Although Cuffee died in 1817, his early efforts encouraged the ACS to lead further settlements. The Friends opposed slavery but believed blacks would face better chances for freedom in Africa than in the U.S. The slaveholders opposed freedom for blacks, but saw repatriation as a way of avoiding rebellions.
  84. ^ "Map of Liberia, West Africa".  
  85. ^ a b Maggie Montesinos Sale (1997). The Slumbering Volcano: American Slave Ship Revolts and the Production of Rebellious Masculinity, p. 264. Duke University Press, 1997. ISBN 0-8223-1992-6
  86. ^ Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade. The Story of the Atlantic Slave Trade: 1440–1870 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997), 568.
  87. ^ Paul Finkelman, "The Abolition of the Slave Trade", New York Public Library, 2007. Retrieved February 14, 2012.
  88. ^ Simon Schama, Rough Crossings: Britain, the Slaves and the American Revolution, New York: HarperCollins, 2006, p. 406.
  89. ^ Lindsay, Arnett G. "Diplomatic Relations Between the United States and Great Britain Bearing on the Return of Negro Slaves, 1783–1828", Journal of Negro History, 5:4 (October 1920).
  90. ^ See "Arbitration, Mediation, and Conciliation".
  91. ^ J. William Frost, Christianity: A Social and Cultural History (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008), 446.
  92. ^ a b c d J. William Frost, Christianity: A Social and Cultural History (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2008), 447.
  93. ^ Frost (2008), Christianity, 448.
  94. ^ a b c d Foner, Eric (2009). Give Me Liberty. London: Seagull Edition. pp. 406–407. 
  95. ^ Basu, B.D. Chatterjee, R., ed. History of Education in India under the rule of the East India Company. Calcutta: Modern Review Office. pp. 3–4. Retrieved March 9, 2009. 
    [E]very assemblage of negroes for the purpose of instruction in reading or writing, or in the night time for any purpose, shall be an unlawful assembly. Any justice may issue his warrant to any office or other person, requiring him to enter any place where such assemblage may be, and seize any negro therein; and he, or any other justice, may order such negro to be punished with stripes.

    If a white person assemble with negroes for the purpose of instructing them to read or write, or if he associate with them in an unlawful assembly, he shall be confined in jail not exceeding six months and fined not exceeding one hundred dollars; and any justice may require him to enter into a recognizance, with sufficient security, to appear before the circuit, county or corporation court, of the county or corporation where the offence was committed, at its next term, to answer therefor [sic], and in the mean time to keep the peace and be of good behaviour.
    From "The Code of Virginia". Richmond: William F. Ritchie. 1849. pp. 747–48. 
  96. ^ a b "Historical Demographic, Economic and Social Data: the United States, 1790–1970". Historical Statistics of the United States. ICPSR Study. 
  97. ^ Whaples, R. (Mar 1995). "Where is There Consensus among American Economic Historians? The Results of a Survey on Forty Propositions". Journal of Economic History 55: 139–154.  
  98. ^ Galenson, D.W. (Mar 1984). "The Rise and Fall of Indentured Servants in the Americas: An Economic Approach". Journal of Economical History 44: 1.  
  99. ^ Tadman, M. (Dec 2000). "The Demographic Cost of Sugar: Debates on Slave Societies and Natural Increase in the Americas". The American Historical Review 105 (5): 1534.  
  100. ^ a b c Fogel & Engerman (1974). Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. 
  101. ^ Kotlikoff, L. J. (Oct 1979). "The Structure of Slave prices in New Orleans". Economic Inquiry 17 (4): 496.  
  102. ^ a b de Tocqueville, Alexise. "Chapter XVIII: Future Condition Of Three Races In The United States". Democracy in America (Volume 1).  
  103. ^ Wright, Gavin (1978). The Political Economy of the Cotton South: Households, Markets, and Wealth in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Norton. 
  104. ^ Don E. Fehrenbacher, The Dred Scott Case: Its Significance in American Law and Politics (New York: Oxford University Press, 1978).
  105. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry of Freedom, p. 495.
  106. ^ McPherson, Battle Cry, pp. 355, 494–6, quote from George Julian on 495.
  107. ^ Lincoln's letter to O. H. Browning, September 22, 1861.
  108. ^ Stephen B. Oates, Abraham Lincoln: The Man Behind the Myths, page 106.
  109. ^ Images of America: Altoona, by Sr. Anne Francis Pulling, 2001, 10.
  110. ^ Letter to Greeley, August 22, 1862.
  111. ^ Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865.
  112. ^ Lincoln's Letter to A. G. Hodges, April 4, 1864.
  113. ^ James McPherson, The War that Never Goes Away.
  114. ^ James McPherson, "Drawn With the Sword", from the article "Who Freed the Slaves?"
  115. ^ Doyle, Robert C. C. (2010). The Enemy in Our Hands: America's Treatment of Prisoners of War from the Revolution to the War on Terror. University Press of Kentucky. p. 76.  
  116. ^ Bruce C. Levine, Confederate Emancipation: Southern Plans to Free and Arm Slaves during the Civil War (2007).
  117. ^ "History of Juneteenth". Juneteenth World Wide Celebration. Retrieved 9 March 2014. 
  118. ^ Charters of Freedom – The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights
    Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
    Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution [1]
  119. ^
    • Including slaves still held in Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, D.C., and twelve parishes of Louisiana
    • E. Merton Coulter, The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky (1926), pp. 268–70.
    • Bobby G. Herring. The Louisiana Tiger, "Juneteenth and Emancipation Proclamation" July 2011, p. 17.
  120. ^ E. Merton Coulter, The Civil War and Readjustment in Kentucky (1926), pp. 268–70.
  121. ^ Bobby G. Herring. The Louisiana Tiger, "Juneteenth and Emancipation Proclamation" July 2011, p. 17.
  122. ^  
  123. ^ Robert E. Wright, Fubarnomics (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 2010), 83–116.
  124. ^ Gunderson, Gerald (1974). The Origin of the American Civil War. The Journal of Economic History. pp. 915–950. 
  125. ^ a b Ransom, Roger. “Economics of the Civil War”. EH.Net Encyclopedia, edited by Robert Whaples. August 24, 2001. URL Accessed July 16, 2014
  126. ^ Up from Slavery (1901), pp. 19–21.
  127. ^ Litwack (1998), p. 271.
  128. ^ Blackmon (2008), p. 4.
  129. ^ James D. Anderson, The Education of Blacks in the South, 1860–1935, Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1988, pp. 244–45.
  130. ^ Ford, Carin T. (2004). George Eastman: The Kodak Camera Man. Enslow Publishers, INC. 
  131. ^ O'Dell, Larry (February 25, 2007). "Virginia Apologizes for Role in Slavery". The Washington Post. 
  132. ^ Congress Apologizes for Slavery, Jim Crow
  133. ^ Barack Obama praises Senate slavery apology Telegraph. Retrieved September 21, 2011.
  134. ^ Thompson, Krissah (June 19, 2009). "Senate Backs Apology for Slavery". The Washington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2009. 
  135. ^ Jefferson, Thomas. "Like a fire bell in the night" Letter to John Holmes, April 22, 1820. Library of Congress. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  136. ^ Lee, R.E. "Robert E. Lee's opinion regarding slavery", letter to president Franklin Pierce, December 27, 1856. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  137. ^ Beard C. A. and M. R. Beard, 1921. History of the United States. No copyright in the United States, p. 316.
  138. ^ Hammond, James Henry. "The Mudsill Theory". Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  139. ^ Hammond, James. "The Mudsill Theory". Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  140. ^ James Henry Hammond. "The 'Mudsill' Theory". Senate floor speech, March 4, 1858. Retrieved July 21, 2008.
  141. ^ Fitzhugh, George. "Universal law of Slavery". Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  142. ^ Fitzhugh, George. "Universal Law Of Slavery". Retrieved July 19, 2011. 
  143. ^ "The Universal Law of Slavery" in The Black American: A Documentary History, third edition (Leslie H. Fishel, Benjamin Quarles, eds.), 1970. Retrieved July 21, 2008.
  144. ^ a b Schott, Thomas E. Alexander H. Stephens of Georgia: A Biography, 1996, p. 334.
  145. ^ Gallay, Alan. (2002) The Indian Slave Trade: The Rise of the English Empire in the American South 1670–171. New York: Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-10193-7.
  146. ^ Castillo, E. D. 1998. "Short Overview of California Indian History", California Native American Heritage Commission, 1998. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  147. ^ Beasley, Delilah L. (1918). "Slavery in California," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 3, No. 1. (January), pp. 33–44.
  148. ^ Digital "African American Voices", Digital History. Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  149. ^ "Haida Warfare", Retrieved October 24, 2007.
  150. ^ A history of the descendants of the slaves of Cherokee can be found at Sturm, Circe. "Blood Politics, Racial Classification, and Cherokee National Identity: The Trials and Tribulations of the Cherokee Freedmen". American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 1/2. (Winter – Spring, 1998), pp. 230–58. In 1835, 7.4% of Cherokee families held slaves. In comparison, nearly one-third of white families living in Confederate states owned slaves in 1860. Further analysis of the 1835 Federal Cherokee Census can be found in Mcloughlin, WG. "The Cherokees in Transition: a Statistical Analysis of the Federal Cherokee Census of 1835". Journal of American History, Vol. 64, 3, 1977, p. 678. A discussion on the total number of Slave holding families can be found in Olsen, Otto H. "Historians and the extent of slave ownership in the Southern United States", Civil War History, December 2004 (Accessed here [2] June 8, 2007).
  151. ^ Duncan, J. W. 1928. "Interesting ante-bellum laws of the Cherokee, now Oklahoma history". Chronicles of Oklahoma 6(2):178–180. Retrieved July 13, 2007.
  152. ^ Davis, J. B. 1933. "Slavery in the Cherokee nation". Chronicles of Oklahoma 11(4):1056–1072. Retrieved July 13, 2007.
  153. ^ Page 124, Donald J. Berthrong, The Cheyenne and Arapaho Ordeal: Reservation and Agency Life in the Indian Territory, 1875 to 1907, University of Oklahoma (1976), hardcover, ISBN 0-8061-1277-8
  154. ^ Breen, T. H. (2004). "Myne Owne Ground" : Race and Freedom on Virginia's Eastern Shore, 1640-1676. pp. 13-15: Oxford University Press.  
  155. ^ a b Joseph Conlin (2011). The American Past: A Survey of American History. Cengage Learning, p. 370. ISBN 111134339X
  156. ^ Stampp p. 194. Oakes pp. 47–48.
  157. ^ Rachel Kranz (2004). African-American Business Leaders and Entrepreneurs. Infobase Publishing, p. 72. ISBN 143810779X
  158. ^ Franklin and Schweninger p. 201.
  159. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, p. 9.
  160. ^ Henry Louis Gates Jr. "Did Black People Own Slaves?". The Root. March 4, 2013.
  161. ^ Mason pp. 19–20.
  162. ^ Berlin, Generations of Captivity, p. 138.
  163. ^ Oakes pp. 47–48.
  164. ^ Oakes pp. 47–49.
  165. ^ Larry Koger, Black Slaveowners: Free Black Masters in South Carolina, 1790–1860, Columbia, SC: University of South Carolina Press, 1985, Foreword.
  166. ^ "White Slaves, African Masters". University of Chicago Press
  167. ^ Adams, Charles Hansford (2005). The Narrative of Robert Adams: A Barbary Captive. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. xlv–xlvi.  
  168. ^ Horrors of Slavery: or, The American Tars in Tripoli, 1808.
  169. ^ Oren, Michael B. (2005-11-03). "The Middle East and the Making of the United States, 1776 to 1815". Retrieved 2007-02-18. 
  170. ^ "Total Slave Population in US, 1790–1860, by State". Retrieved December 28, 2007. 
  171. ^ Large Slaveholders of 1860 and African American Surname Matches from 1870, by Tom Blake, 2001–2005.
  172. ^ 1860 Census Civil War Home Page.
  173. ^ "Glatthaar, Joseph. ''General Lee's Army: From Victory to Collapse''. New York: Free Press, 2009, pp. 20, 474". Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  174. ^ a b The Sixteen Largest American Slaveholders from 1860 Slave Census Schedules, Transcribed by Tom Blake, April to July 2001, (updated October 2001 and December 2004 – now includes 19 holders)
  175. ^ a b c Damian Alan Pargas, "Boundaries and Opportunities: Comparing Slave Family Formation in the Antebellum South", Journal of Family History 2008; 33; 316, doi:10.1177/0363199008318919
  176. ^ a b Kolchin p. 134.
  177. ^ Kolchin pp. 137–43. Horton and Horton p. 9.


History of slavery in individual states

See also

Much of the history written prior to the 1950s had a distinctive racist slant to it.[176] By the 1970s and 1980s, historians were using archaeological records, black folklore, and statistical data to develop a much more detailed and nuanced picture of slave life. Individuals were shown to have been resilient and somewhat autonomous in many of their activities, within the limits of their situation and despite its precariousness. Historians who wrote in this era include John Blassingame (Slave Community), Eugene Genovese (Roll, Jordan, Roll), Leslie Howard Owens (This Species of Property), and Herbert Gutman (The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom).[177]

The historian Peter Kolchin, writing in 1993, noted that until the latter decades of the 20th century, historians of slavery had primarily concerned themselves with the culture, practices and economics of the slaveholders, not with the slaves. This was in part due to the circumstance that most slaveholders were literate and left behind written records, whereas slaves were largely illiterate and not in a position to leave written records. Scholars differed as to whether slavery should be considered a benign or a “harshly exploitive” institution.[176]


  • Enumerating slave schedules by county, 393,975 named persons held 3,950,546 unnamed slaves, for an average of about ten slaves per holder. As some large holders held slaves in multiple counties and are thus multiply counted, this slightly overestimates the number of slaveholders.
  • Excluding slaves, the 1860 U.S. population was 27,167,529, yielding about 1 in 70 free persons (1.5%) being slaveholders. By counting only named slaveowners, this approach does not acknowledge people who benefited from slavery by being in a slaveowning household, e.g. the wife and children of an owner. Only 8% of all US families owned slaves,[172] while in the South, 33% of families owned slaves. According to recent research by historian Joseph Glatthaar, the number of soldiers of the Confederacy's Army of Northern Virginia who either owned slaves or came from slave owning households is "almost one of every two 1861 recruits". In addition he notes that, "Untold numbers of enlistees rented land from, sold crops to, or worked for slaveholders. In the final tabulation, the vast majority of the volunteers of 1861 had a direct connection to slavery."[173]
  • The distribution of slaves among holders was very unequal: holders of 200 or more slaves, constituting less than 1% of all US slaveholders (fewer than 4,000 persons, 1 in 7,000 free persons, or 0.015% of the population) held an estimated 20–30% of all slaves (800,000 to 1,200,000 slaves). Nineteen holders of 500 or more slaves have been identified.[174] The largest slaveholder was . Brookgreen Gardens and one of his plantations is now part of [175] – he was dubbed "the king of the rice planters",[175][174] and whose heirs in 1860 held 1,130 or 1,131 slaves[175]

As of the 1860 Census, one may compute the following statistics on slaveholding:[171]

Distribution of slaveholders

Total Slave Population in US 1790–1860, by State[170]
1790 1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860
All States 694,207 887,612 1,130,781 1,529,012 1,987,428 2,482,798 3,200,600 3,950,546
Alabama 47,449 117,549 253,532 342,844 435,080
Arkansas 4,576 19,935 47,100 111,115
Connecticut 2,648 951 310 97 25 54
Delaware 8,887 6,153 4,177 4,509 3,292 2,605 2,290 1,798
Florida 25,717 39,310 61,745
Georgia 29,264 59,699 105,218 149,656 217,531 280,944 381,682 462,198
Illinois 917 747 331
Indiana 190 3 3
Iowa 16
Kansas 2
Kentucky 12,430 40,343 80,561 126,732 165,213 182,258 210,981 225,483
Louisiana 69,064 109,588 168,452 244,809 331,726
Maine 2
Maryland 103,036 105,635 111,502 107,398 102,994 89,737 90,368 87,189
Massachusetts 1
Michigan 32
Mississippi 32,814 65,659 195,211 309,878 436,631
Missouri 10,222 25,096 58,240 87,422 114,931
Nebraska 15
New Hampshire 157 8 3 1
New Jersey 11,423 12,422 10,851 7,557 2,254 674 236 18
New York 21,193 20,613 15,017 10,088 75 4
North Carolina 100,783 133,296 168,824 205,017 245,601 245,817 288,548 331,059
Ohio 6 3
Pennsylvania 3,707 1,706 795 211 403 64
Rhode Island 958 380 108 48 17 5
South Carolina 107,094 146,151 196,365 251,783 315,401 327,038 384,984 402,406
Tennessee 13,584 44,535 80,107 141,603 183,059 239,459 275,719
Texas 58,161 182,566
Virginia 292,627 346,671 392,518 425,153 469,757 449,087 472,528 490,865
Wisconsin 11 4
Evolution of the enslaved population of the United States as a percentage of the population of each state, 1790–1860

# Slaves # Free
% Free
Total US
% Blacks
of total
1790 697,681 59,527 757,208 8% 3,929,214 19%
1800 893,602 108,435 1,002,037 11% 5,308,483 19%
1810 1,191,362 186,446 1,377,808 14% 7,239,881 19%
1820 1,538,022 233,634 1,771,656 13% 9,638,453 18%
1830 2,009,043 319,599 2,328,642 14% 12,860,702 18%
1840 2,487,355 386,293 2,873,648 13% 17,063,353 17%
1850 3,204,313 434,495 3,638,808 12% 23,191,876 16%
1860 3,953,760 488,070 4,441,830 11% 31,443,321 14%
1870 0 4,880,009 4,880,009 100% 38,558,371 13%
Source:"Distribution of Slaves in US History". Retrieved May 13, 2010. 
Percentage of slaves in each county of the slave states in 1860

Distribution of slaves


The Barbary situation led directly to the creation of the United States Navy in March 1794. While the United States managed to secure peace treaties, these obliged it to pay tribute for protection from attack. Payments in ransom and tribute to the Barbary states amounted to 20% of United States government annual expenditures in 1800.[169] The First Barbary War in 1801 and the Second Barbary War in 1815 led to more favorable peace terms ending the payment of tribute.

Barbary pirates from North Africa began to seize North American colonists as early as 1625,[166] and roughly 700 Americans were held captive in this region as slaves between 1785 and 1815.[167] Some captives used their experiences as a North African slave to criticize slavery in the United States, such as William Ray in his book Horrors of Slavery.[168]

Barbary pirates

In his 1985 statewide study of black slaveholders in South Carolina, Larry Koger challenged the benevolent view. He found that the majority of black slaveholders appeared to hold slaves as a commercial decision. For instance, he noted that in 1850 more than 80 percent of black slaveholders were of mixed race, but nearly 90 percent of their slaves were classified as black.[165] He also noted the number of small artisans in Charleston who held slaves to help with their businesses.

The historian James Oakes in 1982 notes that “[t]he evidence is overwhelming that the vast majority of black slaveholders were free men who purchased members of their families or who acted out of benevolence.”[163] After 1810 southern states made it increasingly difficult for any slaveholders to free slaves. Often the purchasers of family members were left with no choice but to maintain, on paper, the owner–slave relationship. In the 1850s “there were increasing efforts to restrict the right to hold bondsmen on the grounds that slaves should be kept ‘as far as possible under the control of white men only.’”[164]

Free blacks were perceived “as a continual symbolic threat to slaveholders, challenging the idea that ‘black’ and ‘slave’ were synonymous.” Free blacks were seen as potential allies of fugitive slaves and “slaveholders bore witness to their fear and loathing of free blacks in no uncertain terms.”[161] For free blacks, who had only a precarious hold on freedom, “slave ownership was not simply an economic convenience but indispensable evidence of the free blacks' determination to break with their slave past and their silent acceptance – if not approval – of slavery.”[162]

African American history and culture scholar [160]

In slave societies, nearly everyone—free and slave—aspired to enter the slaveholding class, and upon occasion some former slaves rose into slaveholders’ ranks. Their acceptance was grudging, as they carried the stigma of bondage in their lineage and, in the case of American slavery, color in their skin.[159]

The historian Ira Berlin wrote:

A large majority of profit-oriented free black slaveholders resided in the Lower South. For the most part, they were persons of mixed racial origin, often women who cohabited or were mistresses of white men, or mulatto men.... Provided land and slaves by whites, they owned farms and plantations, worked their hands in the rice, cotton, and sugar fields, and like their white contemporaries were troubled with runaways.[158]

Some slaveholders were black or had some black ancestry. An African former indentured servant arrived to Virginia in 1621, Anthony Johnson, became one of the earliest documented slave owners in the mainland American colonies when he won a civil suit for ownership of John Casor.[154] In 1830 there were 3,775 such slaveholders in the South who owned 12,760 slaves,[155] with 80% of them located in Louisiana, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. There were economic differences between free blacks of the Upper South and Deep South, with the latter fewer in number, but wealthier and typically of mixed race. Half of the black slaveholders lived in cities rather than the countryside, with most in New Orleans and Charleston. Especially New Orleans had a large, relatively wealthy free black population (gens de couleur) composed of people of mixed race, who had become a third class between whites and enslaved blacks under French and Spanish rule. Relatively few slaveholders were “substantial planters.” Of those who were, most were of mixed race, often endowed by white fathers with some property and social capital.[156] For example, Andrew Durnford of New Orleans was listed as owning 77 slaves.[155] According to Rachel Kranz: “Durnford was known as a stern master who worked his slaves hard and punished them often in his efforts to make his Louisiana sugar plantation a success.”[157] The historians John Hope Franklin and Loren Schweninger wrote:

Black slaveholders

A few captives from other tribes who were used as slaves were not freed when African-American slaves were emancipated. Ute Woman, a Ute captured by the Arapaho and later sold to a Cheyenne, was one example. Used as a prostitute for sale to American soldiers at Cantonment in the Indian Territory, she lived in slavery until about 1880 when she died of a haemorrhage resulting from "excessive sexual intercourse".[153]

Post-Emancipation Proclamation slavery

By contrast, the Seminoles welcomed into their nation African Americans who had escaped slavery (Black Seminoles).

The nature of slavery in Cherokee society often mirrored that of white slave-owning society. The law barred intermarriage of Cherokees and enslaved African Americans.[11] Cherokee who aided slaves were punished with one hundred lashes on the back. In Cherokee society, those with African-American descent were barred from holding office even if they were a mixed blood Cherokee, bearing arms, and owning property, and they made it illegal to teach African Americans to read and write.[11][151][152]

After 1800, the Cherokees and the other civilized tribes started buying and using black slaves, a practice they continued after being relocated to Indian Territory in the 1830s, when as many as 15,000 enslaved blacks were taken with them.[11][150]

The Yurok, that lived along the coast from what is now Alaska to California, the Pawnee, and Klamath.[17]

Inter-tribal slavery

Slavery of Native Americans was organized in colonial and Mexican California through Franciscan missions, theoretically entitled to ten years of Native labor, but in practice maintaining them in perpetual servitude, until their charge was revoked in the mid-1830s. Following the 1847–48 invasion by U.S. troops, the "loitering or orphaned Indians" were de facto enslaved in the new state from statehood in 1850 to 1867.[146] Slavery required the posting of a bond by the slave holder and enslavement occurred through raids and a four-month servitude imposed as a punishment for Indian "vagrancy".[147]

During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, Indian slavery, the enslavement of Native Americans by European colonists, was common. Many of these Native slaves were exported to the Northern colonies and to off-shore colonies, especially the "sugar islands" of the Caribbean.[11] Historian Alan Gallay estimates that from 1670–1715, British slave traders sold between 24,000 and 51,000 Native Americans from what is now the southern part of the U.S.[145]

Native Americans

Our new Government is founded upon exactly the opposite ideas; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition.[144]
The new Constitution has put at rest forever all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institutions—African slavery as it exists among us—the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson, in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the "rock upon which the old Union would split." He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with; but the general opinion of the men of that day was, that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away... Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the idea of a Government built upon it—when the "storm came and the wind blew, it fell."

On March 21, 1861, new southern Confederate, Vice President Alexander Stephens, delivered the Cornerstone Speech. The speech explained the differences between the constitution of the Confederate Republic and that of the United States, and laid out the cause for the American Civil War, and a defense of slavery.[144]

Others who also moved from the idea of necessary evil to positive good are racism and used this belief to justify slavery, writing that, “the Negro is but a grown up child, and must be governed as a child.” In "The Universal Law of Slavery" Fitzhugh argues that slavery provides everything necessary for life and that the slave is unable to survive in a free world because he is lazy, and cannot compete with the intelligent European white race. He states that "The negro slaves of the South are the happiest, and in some sense, the freest people in the world."[141] Without the South "He (slave) would become an insufferable burden to society" and "Society has the right to prevent this, and can only do so by subjecting him to domestic slavery."[142][143]

However, as the abolition agitation increased and the planting system expanded, apologies for slavery became more faint in the South. Then apologies were superseded by claims that slavery was a beneficial scheme of labor control. John C. Calhoun, in a famous speech in the Senate in 1837, declared that slavery was "instead of an evil, a good—a positive good." Calhoun supported his view with the following reasoning: in every civilized society one portion of the community must live on the labor of another; learning, science, and the arts are built upon leisure; the African slave, kindly treated by his master and mistress and looked after in his old age, is better off than the free laborers of Europe; and under the slave system conflicts between capital and labor are avoided. The advantages of slavery in this respect, he concluded, "will become more and more manifest, if left undisturbed by interference from without, as the country advances in wealth and numbers."[137]

"A positive good"

Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, also expressed an opposition to slavery, but felt that the existence of a multiracial society without slavery untenable, and observed prejudice against negroes increasing as they were granted more rights (for example, in northern states). He considered the attitudes of white southerners, and the concentration of the black population in the south–due to exportation resulting from restrictions in the north, and climatic and economic reasons–that was bringing the white and black population to a state of equilibrium, as a danger to both races. Thus, because of the racial differences between master and slave, the latter could not be emancipated.[102]

There are few, I believe, in this enlightened age, who will not acknowledge that slavery as an institution is a moral and political evil. It is idle to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it is a greater evil to the white than to the colored race. While my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more deeply engaged for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, physically, and socially. The painful discipline they are undergoing is necessary for their further instruction as a race, and will prepare them, I hope, for better things. How long their servitude may be necessary is known and ordered by a merciful Providence.[136]

Robert E. Lee wrote in 1856:

We have the wolf by the ear, and we can neither hold him, nor safely let him go. Justice is in one scale, and self-preservation in the other.[135]

In the 19th century, proponents of slavery often defended the institution as a "necessary evil". White people of that time feared that emancipation of black slaves would have more harmful social and economic consequences than the continuation of slavery. In 1820, Thomas Jefferson, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, wrote in a letter that with slavery:

"A necessary evil"


The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a similar resolution on June 18, 2009, apologizing for the "fundamental injustice, cruelty, brutality, and inhumanity of slavery".[133] It also explicitly states that it cannot be used for restitution claims.[134]

On July 30, 2008, the United States House of Representatives passed a resolution apologizing for American slavery and subsequent discriminatory laws.[132]

On February 24, 2007, the Virginia General Assembly passed House Joint Resolution Number 728 acknowledging "with profound regret the involuntary servitude of Africans and the exploitation of Native Americans, and call for reconciliation among all Virginians."[131] With the passing of this resolution, Virginia became the first state to acknowledge through the state's governing body their state's negative involvement in slavery. The passing of this resolution came on the heels of the 400th anniversary celebration of the city of Jamestown, Virginia, which was one of the first slave ports of the American colonies.


, each of whom had arisen from modest roots to become wealthy, used matching fund grants to stimulate local development of libraries and schools. Andrew Carnegie and Henry H. Rogers provided matching funds for community efforts to build rural schools for black children. He insisted on white and black cooperation in the effort, wanting to ensure that white-controlled school boards made a commitment to maintain the schools. By the 1930s local parents had helped raise funds (sometimes donating labor and land) to create over 5,000 rural schools in the South. Other philanthropists, such as Julius Rosenwald Collaborating with Dr. Washington in the early decades of the 20th century, philanthropist [130] Northern philanthropists continued to support black education in the 20th century, even as tensions rose within the black community, exemplified by Dr.

Consequently, many black and white religious organizations, former Union Army officers and soldiers, and wealthy philanthropists were inspired to create and fund educational efforts specifically for the betterment of African Americans; some African Americans had started their own schools before the end of the war. Northerners helped create numerous normal schools, such as those that became Hampton University and Tuskegee University, to generate teachers. Blacks held teaching as a high calling, with education the first priority for children and adults. Many of the most talented went into the field. Some of the schools took years to reach a high standard, but they managed to get thousands of teachers started. As W. E. B. Du Bois noted, the black colleges were not perfect, but "in a single generation they put thirty thousand black teachers in the South" and "wiped out the illiteracy of the majority of black people in the land."[129]

The anti-literacy laws after 1832 contributed greatly to the problem of widespread illiteracy facing the freedmen and other African Americans after Emancipation and the Civil War 35 years later. The problem of illiteracy and need for education was seen as one of the greatest challenges confronting these people as they sought to join the free enterprise system and support themselves during Reconstruction and thereafter.

An industrial school set up for ex-slaves in Richmond during Reconstruction

Educational issues

The constitutional basis for convict leasing is that the Thirteenth Amendment, while abolishing slavery and involuntary servitude generally, expressly permits it as a punishment for crime.

It was a form of bondage distinctly different from that of the antebellum South in that for most men, and the relatively few women drawn in, this slavery did not last a lifetime and did not automatically extend from one generation to the next. But it was nonetheless slavery – a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion.[128]

With emancipation a legal reality, white Southerners were concerned with both controlling the newly freed slaves and keeping them in the labor force at the lowest level. The system of convict leasing began during Reconstruction and was fully implemented in the 1880s. This system allowed private contractors to purchase the services of convicts from the state or local governments for a specific time period. African Americans, due to “vigorous and selective enforcement of laws and discriminatory sentencing” made up the vast majority of the convicts leased.[127] Writer Douglas A. Blackmon writes of the system:

Convict leasing

During Reconstruction, it was a serious question whether slavery had been permanently abolished or whether some form of semi-slavery would appear after the Union armies left. Over time a large civil rights movement arose to bring full civil rights and equality under the law to all Americans.

With the exception of cases of peonage, beyond the period of Reconstruction, the federal government took almost no action to enforce the 13th Amendment until December 1941 when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt summoned his attorney general. Five days after Pearl Harbor, at the request of the president Attorney General Francis Biddle issued Circular No. 3591 to all federal prosecutors, instructing them to actively investigate and try any case of involuntary servitude or slavery.

The continued involuntary servitude took various forms but the primary forms included convict leasing, peonage, and sharecropping, with the latter eventually encompassing poor whites as well. Using convict leasing programs, African American men, often guilty of no crime at all, were arrested, compelled to work without pay, repeatedly bought and sold, and coerced to do the bidding of masters. Sharecropping as it was practiced during this period often involved severe restrictions on the freedom of movement of sharecroppers who could be whipped for leaving the plantation. Both sharecropping and convict leasing were legal and tolerated by both the north and south. However, peonage was an illicit form of forced labor. Its existence was ignored by authorities while thousands of African Americans were subjugated and held in bondage well into the 20th century.

This lasted well into the 20th century, with the last state, Maryland, finally abolishing in 1972. Although slavery is commonly understood to have ended with the Emancipation Proclamation, or the Thirteenth Amendment, exhaustive research conducted by journalist Douglas A. Blackmon and reported in his Pulitzer Prize winning book Slavery By Another Name shows that thousands of African Americans were re-enslaved with shocking force and brutality after the period of Reconstruction was over.

From 1865 to 1875, federal troops were stationed in the south specifically to keep blacks from being re-enslaved. However, after ten years of protection the federal troops were withdrawn, leaving blacks at the mercy of their former captors. When African Americans in the south no longer had the protection of the federal troops, whites found other ways to practice involuntary servitude.

Proponents of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution knew that without legislation that codified the 13th Amendment in the form of laws and statutes along with law enforcement agencies to uphold the laws, there would be no true end to slavery, and this is the reason for the inclusion of Section 2 of the 13th Amendment authorizing Congress to establish laws upholding the amendment. The federal government also sent troops to the south to provide protection to the former slaves who were still living among their former captors.

In spite of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation and the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the road to freedom remained elusive for most former slaves in the United States. While the Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the land, it is not self-enforcing, nor was the Emancipation Proclamation. The text and principles outlined in them were only words without enforcement, and so alone, they could not and did not abolish slavery. The enactment of the Thirteenth Amendment simply made slavery and all forms of involuntary servitude, except as punishment for crime, unconstitutional. The actual abolition of slavery – that is the full enforcement of the 13th Amendment took many decades beyond 1865 to be realized. Enforcement of the 13th amendment began during the Reconstruction period, but there were many setbacks between that time and full enforcement.

Reconstruction to present

As the great day drew nearer, there was more singing in the slave quarters than usual. It was bolder, had more ring, and lasted later into the night. Most of the verses of the plantation songs had some reference to freedom.... Some man who seemed to be a stranger (a United States officer, I presume) made a little speech and then read a rather long paper—the Emancipation Proclamation, I think. After the reading we were told that we were all free, and could go when and where we pleased. My mother, who was standing by my side, leaned over and kissed her children, while tears of joy ran down her cheeks. She explained to us what it all meant, that this was the day for which she had been so long praying, but fearing that she would never live to see.

Booker T. Washington, remembered the day in early 1863, when he was a boy of nine in Virginia:[126]

Legally, the last 40,000-45,000 slaves were freed in the last two slaves states of Kentucky and Delaware[120] by the final ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in December 18, 1865. Slaves still held in Tennessee, Kentucky, Kansas, New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, Missouri, Washington, D.C., and twelve parishes of Louisiana[121] also became legally free on this date. American historian R.R. Palmer opined that the abolition of slavery in the United States without compensation to the former slave owners was an "annihilation of individual property rights without the history of the Western world".[122] Economic historian Robert E. Wright argues that it would have been much cheaper, with minimal deaths, if the federal government had purchased and freed all the slaves, rather than fighting the Civil War.[123] Another economic historian, Roger Ransom, writes about how Gerald Gunderson compared compensated emancipation to the cost of the war and "notes that the two are roughly the same order of magnitude — 2.5 to 3.7 billion dollars" [124][125] Ransom also writes that compensated emancipation would have tripled federal outlays if paid over the period of 25 years and was a program that had no political support within the United States during the 1860s.[125]

[119] The

The war ended in June 22, 1865 and following that surrender, the Emancipation Proclamation was enforced throughout remaining regions of the South that had not yet freed the slaves. Slavery continued for a couple of months in some locations.[117] Federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas on June 19, to enforce the emancipation, and that day is now celebrated as Juneteenth in several states.

A dark-haired, bearded, middle-aged man holding documents is seated among seven other men.
Abraham Lincoln presents the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his cabinet. Painted by Francis Bicknell Carpenter in 1864

The end of slavery

In spite of the South's shortage of manpower, until 1865, most Southern leaders opposed arming slaves as soldiers. However, a few Confederates discussed arming slaves, and some free blacks had offered to fight for the South. Finally in early 1865 General Robert E. Lee said black soldiers were essential, and legislation was passed. The first black units were in training when the war ended in April.[116]

The Arizona Territory. Tennessee and all of the border states (except Kentucky) abolished slavery by early 1865. Thousands of slaves were freed by the operation of the Emancipation Proclamation as Union armies marched across the South. Emancipation as a reality came to the remaining southern slaves after the surrender of all Confederate troops in spring 1865.

Enslaved African Americans did not wait for Lincoln's action before escaping and seeking freedom behind Union lines. From early years of the war, hundreds of thousands of African Americans escaped to Union lines, especially in Union-controlled areas like Norfolk and the Hampton Roads region in 1862 Virginia, Tennessee from 1862 on, the line of Sherman's march, etc. So many African Americans fled to Union lines that commanders created camps and schools for them, where both adults and children learned to read and write. The American Missionary Association entered the war effort by sending teachers south to such contraband camps, for instance, establishing schools in Norfolk and on nearby plantations. In addition, nearly 200,000 African-American men served with distinction as soldiers and sailors with Union troops. Most of those were escaped slaves. The Confederacy was outraged by black soldiers and refused to treat them as prisoners of war. Many were shot, as at the Fort Pillow Massacre, and others re-enslaved.[115]

Four generations of a slave family photographed during the Civil War, Smith's Plantation, Beaufort, South Carolina, 1862

Since the Emancipation Proclamation was based on the President's war powers, it only included territory held by Confederates at the time. However, the Proclamation became a symbol of the Union's growing commitment to add emancipation to the Union's definition of liberty.[113] Lincoln also played a leading role in getting Congress to vote for the Thirteenth Amendment,[114] which made emancipation universal and permanent.

Simon Legree and Uncle Tom: A scene from Uncle Tom's Cabin, history's most famous abolitionist novel

Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863 was a powerful move that promised freedom for slaves in the Confederacy as soon as the Union armies reached them, and authorized the enlistment of African Americans in the Union Army. The Emancipation Proclamation did not free slaves in the Union-allied slave-holding states that bordered the Confederacy. Since the Confederate States did not recognize the authority of President Lincoln, and the proclamation did not apply in the border states, at first the proclamation freed only slaves who had escaped behind Union lines. Still, the proclamation made the abolition of slavery an official war goal that was implemented as the Union took territory from the Confederacy. According to the Census of 1860, this policy would free nearly four million slaves, or over 12% of the total population of the United States.

If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong … And yet I have never understood that the Presidency conferred upon me an unrestricted right to act officially upon this judgment and feeling ... I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.[112]
on September 22, 1862, and said that a final proclamation would be issued if his gradual plan based on compensated emancipation and voluntary colonization was rejected. Only the District of Columbia accepted Lincoln's gradual plan, and Lincoln issued his final Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863. In his letter to Hodges, Lincoln explained his belief that Emancipation Proclamation Lincoln issued his preliminary [111] encouraging the border states especially to accept emancipation as necessary to save the Union. Lincoln later said that slavery was "somehow the cause of the war".[110] Lincoln had already published a letter[109] added support for the proclamation.War Governors' Conference provided this opportunity, and the subsequent Battle of Antietam In September 1862 the [108] told Lincoln to wait for a victory before issuing the proclamation, as to do otherwise would seem like "our last shriek on the retreat".William H. SewardLincoln mentioned his Emancipation Proclamation to members of his cabinet on July 21, 1862. Secretary of State
Escaped slaves, ca. 1862

In 1861, Lincoln expressed the fear that premature attempts at emancipation would mean the loss of the border states. He believed that "to lose Kentucky is nearly the same as to lose the whole game."[107] At first, Lincoln reversed attempts at emancipation by Secretary of War Simon Cameron and Generals John C. Fremont (in Missouri) and David Hunter (in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida) in order to keep the loyalty of the border states and the War Democrats.

Eastman Johnson (American, 1824-1906). A Ride for Liberty -- The Fugitive Slaves (recto), ca. 1862. Oil on paperboard. Brooklyn Museum

Emancipation Proclamation

At the beginning of the war, some Union commanders thought they were supposed to return escaped slaves to their masters. By 1862, when it became clear that this would be a long war, the question of what to do about slavery became more general. The Southern economy and military effort depended on slave labor. It began to seem unreasonable to protect slavery while blockading Southern commerce and destroying Southern production. As one Congressman put it, the slaves "…cannot be neutral. As laborers, if not as soldiers, they will be allies of the rebels, or of the Union."[105] The same Congressman—and his fellow Radical Republicans—put pressure on Lincoln to rapidly emancipate the slaves, whereas moderate Republicans came to accept gradual, compensated emancipation and colonization.[106] Copperheads, the border states and War Democrats opposed emancipation, although the border states and War Democrats eventually accepted it as part of total war needed to save the Union.

The consequent American Civil War, beginning in 1861, led to the end of chattel slavery in America. Not long after the war broke out, through a legal maneuver credited to Union General Benjamin F. Butler, a lawyer by profession, slaves who came into Union "possession" were considered "contraband of war". General Butler ruled that they were not subject to return to Confederate owners as they had been before the war. Soon word spread, and many slaves sought refuge in Union territory, desiring to be declared "contraband." Many of the "contrabands" joined the Union Army as workers or troops, forming entire regiments of the U.S. Colored Troops. Others went to refugee camps such as the Grand Contraband Camp near Fort Monroe or fled to northern cities. General Butler's interpretation was reinforced when Congress passed the Confiscation Act of 1861, which declared that any property used by the Confederate military, including slaves, could be confiscated by Union forces.

Two children who were likely emancipated during the Civil War, circa 1870

Civil War

They also argued that banning slavery in new states would upset what they saw as a delicate balance of free states and slave states. They feared that ending this balance could lead to the domination of the industrial North with its preference for high tariffs on imported goods. The combination of these factors led the South to secede from the Union, and thus began the American Civil War. Northern leaders had viewed the slavery interests as a threat politically, and with secession, they viewed the prospect of a new southern nation, the Confederate States of America, with control over the Mississippi River and the West, as politically and militarily unacceptable.

Lincoln, the Republican, won with a plurality of popular votes and a majority of electoral votes. Lincoln, however, did not appear on the ballots of ten southern states: thus his election necessarily split the nation along sectional lines. Many slave owners in the South feared that the real intent of the Republicans was the abolition of slavery in states where it already existed, and that the sudden emancipation of four million slaves would be problematic for the slave owners and for the economy that drew its greatest profits from the labor of people who were not paid.

The divisions became fully exposed with the 1860 presidential election. The electorate split four ways. The Southern Democrats endorsed slavery, while the Republicans denounced it. The Northern Democrats said democracy required the people to decide on slavery locally, state by state and territory by territory. The Constitutional Union Party said the survival of the Union was at stake and everything else should be compromised.

1860 presidential election

Civil War and emancipation

The 1857 decision, decided 7–2, held that a slave did not become free when taken into a free state; Congress could not bar slavery from a territory; and people of African descent imported into the United States and held as slaves, or their descendants, could not be citizens. A state could not bar slaveowners from bringing slaves into that state. Many Republicans, including Abraham Lincoln, considered the decision unjust and as proof that the Slave Power had seized control of the Supreme Court. Written by Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, the decision effectively barred slaves and their descendants from citizenship. Abolitionists were enraged and slave owners encouraged, contributing to tensions on this subject that led to civil war.[104]

After the case was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, it denied Scott his freedom in a sweeping decision that set the United States on course for civil war. The court ruled that, under the Constitution, neither Dred Scott nor any descendant of Africans, slave or free, was a citizen who had a right to sue in the Federal courts, and that Congress had had no constitutional power to pass the Missouri Compromise.

Dred Scott and his wife Harriet Scott each sued for freedom in St. Louis after the death of their master on the grounds that they had lived in a territory where slavery was forbidden (the northern part of the Louisiana Purchase, from which slavery was excluded under the terms of the Missouri Compromise). (Later the two cases were combined under Dred Scott's name.) Scott filed suit for freedom in 1846 and went through two state trials, the first denying and the second granting freedom to the couple (and, by extension, their two daughters, who had also been held illegally in free territories). Missouri state precedent for 28 years had generally provided for freedom in such cases during the 19th century, but the State Supreme Court ruled against Scott, saying that "times were not what they once were."

Dred Scott

After the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, border wars broke out in Kansas Territory, where the question of whether it would be admitted to the Union as a slave or free state was left to the inhabitants. Abolitionist John Brown was active in the rebellion and killing in "Bleeding Kansas", as were many white Southerners. At the same time, fears that the Slave Power was seizing full control of the national government swept anti-slavery Republicans into office.

Bleeding Kansas

Congress abolished the slave trade (though not the legality of slavery) in the District of Columbia as part of the Compromise of 1850.

Because of the three-fifths compromise in the U.S. Constitution, in which slaves counted in the calculation of how many representatives a state had in Congress (though only three-fifths as much as a free person), the elite planter class had long held power in Congress out of proportion to the total number of white Southerners. In 1850 they passed a more stringent Federal fugitive slave law. Refugees from slavery continued to flee the South across the Ohio River and other parts of the Mason-Dixon Line dividing North from South, to the North via the Underground Railroad. The physical presence of African Americans in Cincinnati, Oberlin, and other Northern towns agitated some white Northerners, though others helped hide former slaves from their former owners, and others helped them reach freedom in Canada. After 1854, Republicans argued that the Slave Power, especially the pro-slavery Democratic Party, controlled two of the three branches of the Federal government.

Uncle Marian, a slave of great notoriety, of North Carolina. Daguerreotype of elderly North Carolina slave, circa 1850.


While slavery brought profits in the short run, discussion continues on the economic benefits – or lack of them – of slavery in the long-run. During the 19th century Alexis de Tocqueville noted that “the colonies in which there were no slaves became more populous and richer than those in which slavery flourished[102] ”. Gavin Wright admits that the use of monetary resources in the cotton industry, among others, lagged the development of commercial and industrial institutions. Railroads were less developed in the South, but Wright argues that agricultural technology was far more developed in the South, representing an economic advantage of the South over the North of the United States.[103]

Effects of slavery in Southern development

The conditions of the market led to shocks in the supply and demand of slaves, which in turn changed prices. For instance, slaves became more expensive after the decrease in supply caused by the ban on importation of slaves in 1808. The market for the products of their work also affected slaves' economic value: demand for slaves fell with the price of cotton in 1840. Anticipation of changes also had a huge influence on prices. As the civil war progressed, there was great doubt that slavery would continue to be legal, and prime males in New Orleans were sold by $1116 in 1862 as opposed to $1381 in 1861.[101]

Prices reflected the characteristics of the slave – such factors as sex, age, nature, and height were all taken into account to determine the price of a slave. Over the life-cycle, female slaves were more expensive than their male counterparts up to puberty age, as they had the extra benefit of potentially bearing children and producing more slaves. Males around the age of 25 were the most valued, as they were at the highest level of productivity and still had a considerable life-span. If slaves had a history of fights or escapes, then the value decreased significantly as planters believed there was the imminent risk of the same action happening again. Taller male slaves were priced at a higher level, as height was viewed as a proxy for fitness and productivity.[100]

Controlling for inflation, prices of slaves rose tremendously in the six decades prior to Civil War. Although the prices of slaves relative to indentured servants declined, both got more expensive. Cotton production was rising and relied on the use of slaves to yield high profits. Fogel and Engeman initially argued that if the Civil War had not happened, the slave prices would have increased even more, an average of more than 50 percent by 1890.[100]

Prices of slaves

Scholars disagree on how to quantify efficiency of slavery. In Time on the Cross, Fogel and Engerman equate efficiency to Total Factor Productivity (TFP) – the output per average unit of input on a farm. Using this measurement, farms that employed slaves using the Gang System were southern farms were 35% more efficient than Northern farms which used free labor. Under the Gang System, groups of slaves perform synchronized tasks under the constant vigilance of an overseer. Each group was like a part of a machine. If perceived to be working below his capacity, a slave could be punished. However, Fogel argues that this kind of negative enforcement was not frequent; that slaves and free laborers had similar quality of life. This last statement is a controversial one and there is no agreement on this matter.[100]

Mixed-race slave girls showing European ancestry, New Orleans

Efficiency of slaves

Though scholars such as Eugene Genovese’s argued that slavery was a moribund, inefficient system that was only kept because of cultural reasons, Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman, in their controversial 1974 book Time on the Cross, argued that the rate of return of slavery at the market price was close to 10 percent, a number close to investment in other assets. Fogel's 1989 work, Without Consent or Contract The Rise and Fall of American Slavery, elaborated on the moral indictment of slavery which ultimately led to its abolition.

Some economists and historians regard slavery as a profitable system, albeit without fully accounting for the government costs necessary to maintain the institution, much less the human suffering. The transition from indentured servants to slaves is cited to show that slaves offered greater profits to their owners.[97] The relative price of slaves and indentured servants in the antebellum period did decrease. Indentured servants became more costly with the increase in the demand of skilled labor in England.[98] At the same time, slaves were mostly supplied from within the United States and thus language was not a barrier and the cost of transporting slaves from one state to another was relatively low. In the decades preceding the civil war, the United States experienced a rapid natural increase of black population.[99] Thus the slave population multiplied nearly fourfold between 1810 and 1860 even after the slave trade between England and the US was banned in 1808.[96]

After Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793, most of the slaves in America were directed to the production of cotton. Statistical data shows that while less than 10% of the inhabitants of the North were slaves, by 1790, Virginia had up to 44% of the total slave population. Slavery in the antebellum US was the use of Negro labor in bondage.[96] It was common in agriculture, with a more massive presence in the South – region where climate was more propitious for agricultural activity.

Slaves for sale, a scene in New Orleans.


Across the South, harsh new laws were enacted to curtail the already limited rights of African Americans. New laws in Virginia prohibited blacks, free or slave, from practicing preaching, prohibited blacks from owning firearms, and forbade anyone to teach slaves how to read.[94] Typical was the Virginia anti-literacy law against educating slaves, free blacks and children of whites and blacks, which specified heavy penalties both for student and teacher when slaves were educated.[95]

Anti Literacy

Turner and his followers were hanged, and Turner's body was flayed. In a frenzy of fear and retaliation, the militia killed more than 100 slaves who had not been involved in the rebellion. Planters whipped hundreds of innocent slaves to quell resistance.[94]

In 1831, a slave rebellion occurred in Nat Turner's Rebellion or the Southampton Insurrection. Turner and his followers killed nearly 60 white inhabitants, mostly women and children, as many of the men in the area were attending a religious event in North Carolina.[94] Eventually Turner was captured with 17 other rebels and subdued by the militia.[94]

James Hopkinson's Plantation. Planting sweet potatoes. ca. 1862/63

Nat Turner

Slaves also created their own religious observances, meeting alone without the supervision of their white masters or ministers. Plantations that held groups of slaves numbering twenty, or more, lent the opportunity for nighttime meetings of one or several plantation slave populations.[92] These congregations revolved around a singular preacher, often illiterate with limited knowledge of theology, who was marked by his personal piety and ability to foster a spiritual environment. One lasting influence of these secret congregations is the African-American spiritual.[93]

Southern slaves generally attended their masters’ white churches, and often outnumbered the white congregants. They were usually permitted only to sit in the back or in the balcony. They listened to white preachers, who emphasized the appropriate behavior of slaves to keep in their place, and acknowledged the slave’s identity as both person and property.[92] Preachers taught the master's responsibility and the concept of appropriate paternal treatment, using Christianity to improve conditions for slaves, and to treat them "justly and fairly” (Col. 4:1). This included having self-control, not disciplining under anger, not threatening, and ultimately fostering Christianity among their slaves by example.[92]

Over the decades and with the growth of slavery throughout the South, Baptist and Methodist ministers gradually changed their messages to accommodate the institution. After 1830, white Southerners argued for the compatibility of Christianity and slavery, with a multitude of both Old and New Testament citations.[92]

Prior to the American Revolution, masters and revivalists spread Christianity to slave communities, supported by the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. In the First Great Awakening, Baptists and Methodists from New England preached a message against slavery, encouraged masters to free their slaves, converted both slaves and free blacks, and gave them active roles in new congregations.[91] The first black congregations were started in the South before the Revolution.

Eastman Johnson's 1863 painting "The Lord is My Shepherd"


The Americans protested that Britain's failure to return all slaves violated the Treaty of Ghent. After arbitration by the Tsar of Russia the British paid $1,204,960[89] in damages to Washington, which reimbursed the slaveowners.[90]

Slaveholders, primarily in the South, had considerable "loss of property" as tens of thousands of slaves escaped to British lines or ships for freedom, despite the difficulties. The planters' complacency about slave "contentment" was shocked by seeing that slaves would risk so much to be free.[88] Afterwards, when some freed slaves had been settled at Bermuda, slaveholders such as Major Pierce Butler of South Carolina tried to persuade them to return to the United States, to no avail.

The freedmen fought for Britain throughout the Atlantic campaign, including the attack on Washington D.C. and the Louisiana Campaign. Seven hundred. of these ex-marines were granted land (they reportedly organised themselves in villages along the lines of their military companies). Many other freed American slaves were recruited directly into existing West Indian regiments, or newly created British Army units The British later resettled a few thousand freed slaves at Nova Scotia.

During the War of 1812, British Royal Navy commanders of the blockading fleet, based at the Bermuda dockyard, were instructed to offer freedom to defecting American slaves, as the Crown had during the Revolutionary War. Thousands of escaped slaves went over to the Crown with their families. Men were recruited into the Corps of Colonial Marines on occupied Tangier Island, in the Chesapeake Bay.

War of 1812

Despite the ban, slave imports continued, if on a smaller scale, with smugglers continuing to bring in slaves past U.S. Navy patrols to South Carolina, and overland from Texas and Florida, both under Spanish control.[86] Congress increased the punishment associated with importing slaves, classifying it in 1820 as an act of piracy, with smugglers subject to harsh penalties, including death if caught. After that, "it is unlikely that more than 10,000 [slaves] were successfully landed in the United States."[87] Because of the high market demand, some smuggling of slaves into the United States continued until just before the start of the Civil War.

By January 1, 1808, when Congress banned further imports, only South Carolina was still importing slaves. Congress allowed continued trade only in slaves who were descendants of those currently in the United States. The domestic slave trade was allowed, and it became more profitable than ever with the development of the Deep South for cotton and sugar crops. In addition, US citizens could participate in the international slave trade and the outfitting of ships for that trade. Slavery in the United States became, more or less, self-sustaining by natural increase among the current slaves and their descendants.

The United States Constitution, adopted in 1787, prevented Congress from completely banning the importation of slaves until 1808, although Congress did regulate against it in the Slave Trade Act of 1794, and in subsequent Acts in 1800 and 1803.[33] Knowing the trade would end, in the eight years from 1800 until December 31, 1807, Georgia and South Carolina reopened their trade and imported about 100,000 enslaved Africans into the country. Numerous states individually passed laws against importing slaves after the Revolution.

U.S. brig Perry confronting the slave ship Martha off Ambriz on June 6, 1850

High demand and smuggling

After 1830, William Lloyd Garrison worked for abolition by tying it to religion as a personal sin. He demanded the owners repent and start the process of emancipation. His position increased defensiveness on the part of some southerners, who pointed to the long history of slavery among cultures. A few abolitionists, such as John Brown, favored the use of armed force to foment uprisings among the slaves. Most tried to raise public support for changed laws and to use the legal system.

The slaveholder argued that it would be better for blacks to emigrate to Africa.[85] Slaveholders opposed freedom for blacks, but saw "repatriation" as a way of avoiding rebellions.[83]

unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country. It was desirable, therefore, as it respected them, and the residue of the population of the country, to drain them off.[85]

In 1822 the ACS established the colony of Liberia.[84] It assisted thousands of former African-American slaves and free blacks (with legislated limits) to emigrate there from the United States. Many white people saw this as preferable to emancipation in the United States. Henry Clay, one of the founders, said that blacks faced

In the early part of the 19th century, a variety of organizations were founded that advocated moving black people from the United States to locations where they would enjoy greater freedom; some endorsed [83] The ACS was made up mostly of Quakers and slaveholders, who disagreed on the issue of slavery but found common ground in support of "repatriation". Most black Americans did not want to emigrate; rather, they wanted full rights in the United States, where they were native born, often for generations.

Henry Clay (1777–1852), one of three founders of the American Colonization Society, the vehicle for returning black Americans to greater freedom in Africa, founding Liberia.[83]

Slaveholders began to refer to slavery as the "peculiar institution" to differentiate it from other examples of forced labor. They justified it as less cruel than the free labor of the North.

Throughout the first half of the 19th century, abolitionism, a movement to end slavery, grew in strength throughout the United States; most abolitionist societies and supporters were in the North. This struggle took place amid strong support for slavery among white Southerners, who profited greatly from the system of enslaved labor. Slavery was entwined with the national economy; for instance, the banking, shipping and manufacturing industries of New York City all had strong economic interests in slavery, as in some other major cities in the North.

After Great Britain and the United States outlawed the international slave trade in 1807 and 1808 respectively, the British West Africa Squadron's slave trade suppression activities began in 1808. They were assisted by forces from the United States Navy, starting in 1820. With the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842, the relationship with Britain was formalised, and they jointly ran the Africa Squadron.[82]

As noted above, soon after the Revolutionary War, northern states began to abolish slavery. Many states, including southern ones, passed laws prohibiting the importation of slaves to end the transatlantic slave trade.

Main article: Abolitionism in the United States. See also Abolition of slavery timeline, List of notable opponents of slavery
Curry's Tragic Prelude, illustrating abolitionist John Brown and the clash of forces in Bleeding Kansas

Abolitionist movement

The code for the District of Columbia defined a slave as "a human being, who is by law deprived of his or her liberty for life, and is the property of another."[81]

Even though slave codes had many common features, each state had specific codes or variations that suited the laws in that region. For example in Alabama, slaves were not allowed to leave the premises of the owner without written consent, nor were slaves allowed to trade goods among themselves. In Virginia, slaves were not permitted to drink in public within one mile of his master or during public gatherings. In Ohio, an emancipated slave was prohibited from returning to the state in which he or she had been enslaved. Slaves were not permitted to carry firearms in any of the slave states.

While each state had its own slave code, many concepts were shared throughout the slave states.[80] According to the slave codes, teaching a slave to read or write was illegal, although it often took place as children taught each other.

To help regulate the relationship between slave and owner, including legal support for keeping the slave as property, slave codes were established.

Slave codes

While slaves' living conditions were poor by modern standards, Robert Fogel argued that all workers, free or slave, during the first half of the 19th century were subject to hardship.[79]

Slave sale, Charleston, 1856

Because of the power relationships of the institution, slave women in the United States were at high risk for rape and sexual abuse.[75][76] Many slaves fought back against sexual attacks, and some died resisting. Others carried psychological and physical scars from the attacks.[77] Sexual abuse of slaves was partially rooted in a patriarchal Southern culture which treated black women as property or chattel.[76] Southern culture strongly policed against sexual relations between white women and black men on the purported grounds of racial purity but, before the late 18th century, the many mixed-race slaves and slave children showed that white men had often taken advantage of slave women.[76] Wealthy planter widowers, notably such as John Wayles and his son-in-law Thomas Jefferson, took slave women as concubines; each had six children with his partner: Elizabeth Hemings and her daughter Sally Hemings (the half-sister of Jefferson's late wife), respectively. Both Mary Chesnut and Fanny Kemble, wives of planters, wrote about this issue in the antebellum South in the decades before the Civil War. Sometimes planters used mixed-race slaves as house servants or favored artisans because they were their children or other relatives.[78]

Historian Lawrence M. Friedman wrote: "Ten Southern codes made it a crime to mistreat a slave. ... Under the Louisiana Civil Code of 1825 (art. 192), if a master was “convicted of cruel treatment,” the judge could order the sale of the mistreated slave, presumably to a better master."[74]

Slaves were punished by whipping, shackling, hanging, beating, burning, mutilation, branding, and imprisonment. Punishment was most often meted in response to disobedience or perceived infractions, but sometimes abuse was carried out simply to re-assert the dominance of the master or overseer over the slave.[71] Treatment was usually harsher on large plantations, which were often managed by overseers and owned by absentee slaveholders; in contrast with small slave-owning families, where the closer relationship between the owners and slaves sometimes resulted in a more humane environment.[72] William Wells Brown, who escaped and became a fugitive slave, reported that on one plantation, slave-men were required to pick 80 pounds-per-day of cotton, while women were required to pick 70 pounds; if any slave failed in his or her quota, they were given lashes of the whip for each pound they were short. The whipping post stood right next to the cotton scales.[73]

According to Andrew Fede, a master could be held criminally liable for killing a slave only if the slave he killed was "completely submissive and under the master's absolute control."[69] For example, in 1791 the North Carolina legislature defined the willful killing of a slave as criminal murder, unless done in resisting or under moderate correction.[70]

Slaves were prohibited from associating in groups, with the exception of worship services (a reason why the Black church is such a notable institution in black communities today). Following Nat Turner's rebellion in 1831, some states prohibited or restricted religious gatherings of slaves. Planters feared that group meetings would facilitate communication and could lead to rebellion.[68]

Medical care for slaves, which was limited in terms of medical knowledge available to anyone, was generally provided by other slaves or by slaveholders' family members. Many slaves possessed medical skills needed to tend to each other, and used many folk remedies brought from Africa. They also developed new remedies based on American plants and herbs.[67]

The colonies and states generally denied slaves the opportunity to learn to read or write, a prohibition unique to American slavery, to protect against their forming aspirations that could lead to escape or rebellion.[66] Some slaves learned from planters' children, or from free laborers, while working alongside them.

Peter or Gordon, a whipped Louisiana[64] slave, photo taken at Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1863; the guilty overseer was fired.[65]

The treatment of slaves in the United States varied widely depending on conditions, times and places. Treatment was generally characterized by brutality, degradation, and inhumanity. Whippings, executions, and rapes were commonplace. According to Adalberto Aguirre, there were 1,161 slaves executed in the U.S. between the 1790s and 1850s.[61] Exceptions existed to virtually every generalization; for instance, there were slaves who employed white workers, slave doctors who treated upper-class white patients, and slaves who rented out their labor.[62] After 1820, in response to the inability to import new slaves from Africa, some slaveholders improved the living conditions of their slaves, to influence them not to attempt escape.[63]


Slave traders were men of low reputation, even in the South. In the 1828 presidential election, candidate Andrew Jackson came under heavy attack as a slave trader who bought and sold slaves and moved them about in defiance of modern standards or morality. He was not attacked for merely owning slaves used in plantation work.[60]

New Orleans became nationally important as a slave market and port, as slaves were shipped from there upriver by steamboat to plantations on the Mississippi River; it also sold slaves who had been shipped downriver from markets such as Louisville. By 1840, it had the largest slave market in North America. It became the wealthiest and the fourth-largest city in the nation, based chiefly on the slave trade and associated businesses.[58] The trading season was from September to May, after the harvest.[59]

In Louisiana, French colonists had established sugar cane plantations and exported sugar as the chief commodity crop. After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Americans entered the state and joined the sugar cultivation. Between 1810 and 1830, planters bought slaves from the North and the number of slaves increased from less than 10,000 to more than 42,000. Planters preferred young males, who represented two-thirds of the slave purchases. Dealing with sugar cane was even more physically demanding than growing cotton. The largely young, unmarried male slave force made the reliance on violence by the owners “especially savage.”[57]

The harsh conditions on the frontier increased slave resistance and led owners and overseers to rely on violence for control. Many of the slaves were new to cotton fields and unaccustomed to the "sunrise-to-sunset gang labor" required by their new life. Slaves were driven much harder than when they had been in growing tobacco or wheat back east. Slaves had less time and opportunity to improve the quality of their lives by raising their own livestock or tending vegetable gardens, for either their own consumption or trade, as they could in the east.[56]

Once the trip ended, slaves faced a life on the frontier significantly different from most labor in the Upper South. Clearing trees and starting crops on virgin fields was harsh and backbreaking work. A combination of inadequate nutrition, bad water, and exhaustion from both the journey and the work weakened the newly arrived slaves and produced casualties. New plantations were located at rivers' edges for ease of transportation and travel. Mosquitoes and other environmental challenges spread disease, which took the lives of many slaves. They had acquired only limited immunities to lowland diseases in their previous homes. The death rate was so high that, in the first few years of hewing a plantation out of the wilderness, some planters preferred whenever possible to use rented slaves rather than their own.[55]

Slaves Waiting for Sale: Richmond, Virginia. Painted upon the sketch of 1853

Some traders moved their "chattels" by sea, with Norfolk to New Orleans being the most common route, but most slaves were forced to walk overland. Others were shipped downriver from such markets as Louisville on the Ohio River, and Natchez on the Mississippi. Traders created regular migration routes served by a network of slave pens, yards, and warehouses needed as temporary housing for the slaves. In addition, other vendors provided clothes, food, and supplies for slaves. As the trek advanced, some slaves were sold and new ones purchased. Berlin concluded, "In all, the slave trade, with its hubs and regional centers, its spurs and circuits, reached into every cranny of southern society. Few southerners, black or white, were untouched."[54]

The expansion of the interstate slave trade contributed to the "economic revival of once depressed seaboard states" as demand accelerated the value of slaves who were subject to sale.[53]

The internal slave trade became the largest enterprise in the South outside the plantation itself, and probably the most advanced in its employment of modern transportation, finance, and publicity. The slave trade industry developed its own unique language, with terms such as "prime hands, bucks, breeding wenches, and "fancy girls" coming into common use.[52]

Slave traders transported two-thirds of the slaves who moved west.[51] Only a minority moved with their families and existing master. Slave traders had little interest in purchasing or transporting intact slave families; in the early years, planters demanded only young male slaves for heavy labor. Later, in the interest of creating a "self-reproducing labor force", planters purchased nearly equal numbers of men and women. Berlin wrote:

Slave trader's business in Georgia, 1864.

In the 1830s, almost 300,000 slaves were transported, with Alabama and Mississippi receiving 100,000 each. During each decade between 1810 and 1860, at least 100,000 slaves were moved from their state of origin. In the final decade before the Civil War, 250,000 were moved. Michael Tadman wrote in Speculators and Slaves: Masters, Traders, and Slaves in the Old South (1989) that 60–70% of interregional migrations were the result of the sale of slaves. In 1820 a child in the Upper South had a 30% chance of being sold south by 1860.[50] The death rate for the slaves on their way to their new destination across the American South was much less than that of the captives shipped across the Atlantic Ocean, but mortality was higher than the normal death rate.

The historian Ira Berlin called this forced migration the "Second Middle Passage", because it reproduced many of the same horrors as the Middle Passage (the name given to the transportation of slaves from Africa to North America). This large migration of slaves broke up many families and caused much hardship. The historian Peter Kolchin wrote, "By breaking up existing families and forcing slaves to relocate far from everyone and everything they knew," this migration "replicated (if on a reduced level) many of [the] horrors" of the Atlantic slave trade.[48] Characterizing it as the "central event” in the life of a slave between the American Revolution and the Civil War, Berlin wrote that whether slaves were directly uprooted or lived in fear that they or their families would be involuntarily moved, "the massive deportation traumatized black people, both slave and free."[49]

This boom in agricultural economies in the Deep South resulted in a large westward and southward forced migration of slaves. Historians have estimated that one million slaves were moved westward and southward between 1790 and 1860. Most of the slaves originated in Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas received the most slaves.[47] Kentucky and Tennessee became exporting states.

As the internal slave trade became a dominant feature of American slavery, individuals lost their connection to families and clans. Added to the earlier settlers' previous glossing over of origins and combining slaves from different tribes, many ethnic Africans lost all knowledge of varying tribal origins in Africa, as most had families who had been in the United States for many generations.[44]

By 1815, the internal slave trade had become a major economic activity in the United States; it lasted until the 1860s.[44] Between 1830 and 1840 nearly 250,000 slaves were taken across state lines.[44] In the 1850s over 193,000 were transported, and historians estimate nearly one million in total took part in the forced migration of this new Middle Passage. By 1860 the slave population in the United States had reached 4 million.[44] Of all 1,515,605 free families in the fifteen slave states in 1860, nearly 400,000 held slaves (roughly one in four, or 25%),[45] amounting to 8% of all American families.[46]

The growing demand for cotton led many plantation owners further west in search of suitable land. In addition, the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 enabled more economic processing of short-staple cotton, which could readily be grown in the uplands. The invention revolutionized the cotton industry by increasing fifty-fold the quantity of cotton that could be processed in a day. The mechanization could efficiently handle short-staple cotton, which could be grown in more places than the long-staple cotton of the Low Country. Results were the explosive growth of cotton cultivation throughout the Deep South and greatly increased demand for slave labor to support it.[42] Manumissions decreased dramatically in the South.[43] At the end of the War of 1812, fewer than 300,000 bales of cotton were produced nationally. By 1820 the amount of cotton produced had increased to 600,000 bales, and by 1850 it had reached 4,000,000.

Movement of slaves between 1790 and 1860

Internal slave trade and forced migration

In the US as a whole, by 1810 the number of free blacks reached 186,446, or 13.5 percent of all blacks.[35] After that period, few were freed, as the development of cotton plantations featuring short-staple cotton in the Deep South drove up the internal demand for slaves in the domestic slave trade.[41]

Although Virginia, Maryland and Delaware were slave states, their legislatures made manumission easier following the Revolution. Quaker and Methodist ministers particularly urged slaveholders to free their slaves. The number and proportion of freed slaves in these states rose dramatically until 1810. More than half of the number of free blacks in the United States were concentrated in the Upper South. The proportion of free blacks among the black population in the Upper South rose from less than one percent in 1792 to more than 10 percent by 1810.[32] In Delaware, nearly 75 percent of blacks were free by 1810.[40]

Post-revolution Southern manumissions

Through the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 under the Congress of the Confederation, slavery was prohibited in the territories northwest of the Ohio River (Existing slaves in the Territory were not freed for years, although they could no longer be sold). That was a compromise, as Thomas Jefferson's original proposal in 1784 to end slavery in all the territories lost in Congress by one vote. The territories south of the Ohio River (and Missouri) had authorized slavery.[39] Yankees and Northerners predominated in the westward movement into the Midwestern territory after the American Revolution; as the states were organized, they voted to prohibit slavery in their constitutions when they achieved statehood: Ohio in 1803, Indiana in 1816, and Illinois in 1818. What developed into a Northern block of free states united into one contiguous geographic area that generally shared an anti-slavery culture. The exceptions were areas along the Ohio River settled by Southerners, for instance, the southern portions of states such as Indiana, Ohio and Illinois, leading those areas generally to share in Southern culture and positions.

The principal organized bodies to advocate these reforms in the north were the Pennsylvania Abolition Society and the New York Manumission Society. The emancipation of slaves in the North led to the growth in the population of northern free blacks, from several hundreds in the 1770s to nearly 50,000 by 1810.[38]

Most northern states passed legislation for gradual abolition. As a result of this gradualist approach, New York did not free its last slaves until 1829, Rhode Island had five slaves still listed in the 1840 census, Pennsylvania's last slaves were freed in 1847, Connecticut did not completely abolish slavery until 1848, and slavery was not completely lifted in New Hampshire and New Jersey until the nationwide emancipation in 1865.[37]

During and after the American Revolutionary War, between 1777 and 1804, anti-slavery laws or constitutions were passed in every state north of the Ohio River and the Mason-Dixon Line. By 1810, 75 percent of all African Americans in the North were free. By 1840, virtually all African Americans in the North were free.[35] Vermont's 1777 constitution made no allowance for slavery. In Massachusetts, slavery was successfully challenged in court in 1783 in a freedom suit by Quock Walker as being in contradiction to the state's new constitution of 1780 providing for equality of men. Freed slaves were subject to racial segregation in the North, and it took decades for some states to extend the franchise to them.[36]

Northern abolition

in the 72 years between the election of George Washington and the election of Abraham Lincoln, 50 of those years [had] a slaveholder as president of the United States, and, for that whole period of time, there was never a person elected to a second term who was not a slaveholder.[31]

The protections afforded slavery in the Constitution strengthened the political power of southern representatives, and the southern economy had links nationwide. As the historian James Oliver Horton noted, slaveholders and the commodity crops of the South had a strong influence on United States politics and economy; New York City's economy was closely tied to the South through shipping and manufacturing, for instance. By 1822 half of its exports were related to cotton.[34] Horton said,

While the Constitution protected the slave trade until 1808 in the national Congress, in the first two decades of the postwar era, state legislatures in both the North and South made decisions to free many slaves, resulting in a dramatic rise in the number and proportion of free blacks in the United States by 1810. Most free blacks were in the North, but in the Upper South, the proportion went from less than one percent of all blacks to more than 10 percent, even as the number of slaves was increasing.[32] After 1810, the cotton gin made the cultivation of short-staple cotton profitable, as it could be processed, and the Deep South was developed for widespread cotton cultivation, dramatically increasing the demand for slaves in the southern United States. While it could not prohibit the import slave trade until 1808, the third Congress regulated it in 1794, by prohibition on the use of ports for ship building and outfitting for the trade in the Slave Trade Act. Subsequent acts in 1800 and 1803, further sought to discourage the trade by limiting investment in import trading and prohibiting importation into states that had abolished slavery.[33] The final Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves was adopted in 1807 to go into effect in 1808.

1790 to 1850

In a section negotiated by [31]

As further protection for slavery, the delegates approved Section 2 of Article IV, which prohibited states from freeing slaves who fled to them from another state, and required the return of chattel property to owners.

The Constitution of the United States was drafted in 1787, and included several provisions regarding slavery. Section 9 of Article I forbade the Federal government, from banning the "importation" of persons that an individual state's laws considered "proper to admit" until January 1, 1808, though a tax of ten dollars each was allowed (and which was immediately imposed, after ratification). Article V prohibited amending those portions of Section 9 before 1808. By prohibiting Federal banning of the slave trade for two decades, Article V effectively protected the trade until 1808, giving the States 20 years to resolve this issue. During that time, planters in states of the Lower South imported tens of thousands of slaves, more than during any previous two decades in colonial history.[29]

Constitution of the United States

[28] In the 18th century, Britain had become the world's largest slave trader. During the revolutionary era, all its rebellious colonies banned or suspended the

Many Northern states moved towards emancipation during the Revolutionary Era. The 1777 Constitution of the Vermont Republic banned slavery, freeing males over the age of 21 and women over the age of 18. Pennsylvania in 1780 passed An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, which declared all children born after the act to be free, and Massachusetts, via the Quock Walker Case of 1783, immediately ended slavery in the state. In response to the British offer of freedom for slaves owned by rebel masters, tens of thousands of slaves who were owned by Rebel masters tried to enlist in the British army when it controlled an area. For instance, in South Carolina, nearly 25,000 slaves (30% of the total enslaved population) fled, migrated or died during the disruption of the war. Throughout the South, losses of slaves were high, with many due to escapes.[27] Slaves escaped throughout New England and the mid-Atlantic, joining the British who had occupied New York. In the closing months of the war, the British evacuated 20,000 freedmen from major coastal cities, transporting more than 3,000 for resettlement in Nova Scotia, with others taken to the Caribbean islands, and some to England. Along with these freedmen, the British also transported the slaves of Loyalists. For example, over 5,000 enslaved Africans owned by Loyalists were transported in 1782 from Savannah to Jamaica and St. Augustine. Similarly, over half of the Blacks evacuated out of Charleston to the West Indies and Florida by the British in 1782 were slaves owned by White Loyalists.

Revolutionary War and freedom

In early 1775 Lord Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia, wrote to Lord Dartmouth of his intent to free slaves in case of rebellion.[24] On November 7, 1775, Lord Dunmore issued Lord Dunmore's Proclamation which declared martial law[25] and promised freedom for any slaves of American patriots who would leave their masters and join the royal forces. Slaves owned by Loyalist masters, however, were unaffected by Dunmore's Proclamation. Of slaves owned by Rebel masters, approximately 1500 did so; most died of disease before they could do any fighting. Only 300 made it to freedom in Britain.[26]

Lord Dunmore's proclamation

Slavery in Great Britain had never been authorized by statute. In 1772 it was made unenforceable at American Revolution; some colonial slaveholders feared that rebelling against the Crown might trigger a British-inspired slave revolt.

Origins and Percentages of Africans
imported into British North America
and Louisiana (1700–1820)[21][22]
Amount %
West-central Africa (Kongo, N. Mbundu, S. Mbundu) 26.1
Bight of Biafra (Igbo, Tikar, Ibibio, Bamileke, Bubi) 24.4
Sierra Leone (Mende, Temne) 15.8
Senegambia (Mandinka, Fula, Wolof) 14.5
Gold Coast (Akan, Fon) 13.1
Windward Coast (Mandé, Kru) 5.2
Bight of Benin (Yoruba, Ewe, Fon, Allada and Mahi) 4.3
Southeast Africa (Macua, Malagasy) 1.8

Enslaved people inside Britain

Revolutionary era

A total of about 600,000 enslaved people were imported into the Thirteen Colonies and the U.S, constituting 5% of the twelve million enslaved people brought from Africa to the Americas. The great majority of enslaved Africans were transported to sugar colonies in the Caribbean and to Brazil. As life expectancy was short, their numbers had to be continually replenished. Life expectancy was much higher in the U.S. and the enslaved population also reproduced; enslaved peoples' numbers grew rapidly, reaching 4 million by the 1860 Census. From 1770 until 1860, the rate of natural growth of North American enslaved people was much greater than for the population of any nation in Europe, and was nearly twice as rapid as that of England.[20]

[19] Some of the British colonies attempted to abolish the

During most of the British colonial period, slavery existed in all the colonies. People enslaved in the North typically worked as house servants, artisans, laborers and craftsmen, with the greater number in cities. The South depended on an agricultural economy, and it had a significantly higher number and proportion of slaves in the population, as its commodity crops were labor intensive.[16] Early on, enslaved people in the South worked primarily in agriculture, on farms and plantations growing indigo, rice, and tobacco; cotton became a major crop after the 1790s. The invention of the cotton gin enabled the cultivation of short-staple cotton in a wide variety of areas, leading to the development of the Deep South as cotton country. Tobacco was very labor intensive, as was rice cultivation.[17] In South Carolina in 1720, about 65% of the population consisted of enslaved people.[18] Planters (defined by historians as those who held 20 enslaved people or more) used enslaved workers to cultivate commodity crops. They also worked in the artisanal trades on large plantations and in many southern cities. Backwoods subsistence farmers, the later wave of settlers in the 18th century who settled along the Appalachian Mountains and backcountry, seldom held enslaved people.

The [15] By 1750 Georgia authorized slavery in the state because they had been unable to secure enough indentured servants as laborers, since economic conditions in England began to improve in the first half of the 18th century.


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