The South & Slavery

Out of Many
Chapter 10
Slavery had long dominated
southern life
 Slaves grew tobacco, rice &
indigo while the slave owners
made fortunes
 Slave system waned until
cotton entered & became
highly profitable
 Dominant crop in MD, DE, VA,
MS, LA, AR, FL, & TX
Created a regional culture
quite different from that of
the North
Cotton had one drawback: the
seeds were so difficult to remove
 Took 1 day to hand-clean 1 lb. of
 Eli Whitney, Yale graduate,
 Hired as a tutor for a southern
Catherine Greene, widow,
plantation owner
 1793, built the cotton engine, or
 Catherine suggested making the
teeth out of wire
Suddenly you could clean 50 lbs.
of cotton per day
New land was wanted because cotton rapidly
depleted the soil
“Alabama Fever”
 Southern farmers rushed to the
exceptionally fertile lands of
Alabama & Mississippi
 One of the swiftest migrations
 Slaves cleared the land, drained swaps, built houses &
barns, & planted the first crops
Settlement of the Old Southwest took place at the
expense of the region’s Indian population
Worldwide demand for
cotton supported slavery
Export of cotton a dynamic
part of American economy
Financed northern industrial
Northern industry directly
connected to slavery
Cotton & slavery tied up
capital leaving the South
lagging behind the North in
urban pop., industrialization,
canals, & railroads
The demand for cotton was a result of the
technological & social changes that we know today
as the Industrial Revolution
A Series of inventions resulted in the mechanized
spinning & weaving of cloth
The ability to produce large amounts of cotton
cloth revolutionized the world economy
By the time of the Civil War, cotton accounted for
nearly 60% of the US’s exports
As cotton boomed, it provided capital for the new
factories in the North
After the Rev. War, the northern states abolished slavery &
many slave owners in the Upper South freed their slaves
 Jefferson thought that a “total emancipation with the
consent of the masters” wasn’t too far in the future
 January 1, 1808 – slave trade was constitutionally abolished
in the US
 A small number of slaves continued to be smuggled in from Africa
 But, for the most part, now depended on natural increase
The South was being consumed by cotton
 Did not see the need to invest in risky businesses like canals &
 Did not industrialize as quickly as the North did
 Cotton created a distinctive regional culture.
Slave states were losing political dominance because their
population was not keeping up with that of the North
In 1850, 55% of all slaves were engaged in cotton
Seventy-five percent of slaves worked as field hands,
from sunup to sundown, performing the heavy labor
needed for getting out a cotton crop.
Some slaves worked as house servants.
 About 1/3 of the female slave pop. in VA were servants
 Needed them to maintain their newly “rich” lifestyles
Some slaves were skilled workers.
 Weavers, seamstresses, carpenters, blacksmiths, mechanics
 Lumberjacks, miners, & deckhands
 The wages of the slave belonged to the master, not the slave
Not surprisingly, many suffered from poor health.
As the expansion in the Southwest accelerated, so did
the demand for slaves in the newly settled regions
Upper South (DE, KY, MD, VA, & TN) slave owners sold
slaves “down the river”
More slaves – est. 1 million
– were uprooted by this
internal slave trade &
forced to migrate than were
brought to N. America during
the entire time the
international slave trade was
If they weren’t traveling down the Mississippi River on
steamboat, slaves travelled by foot
They were often chained together in groups of 50 or
Were a common sight on southern roads
Once they arrived at their destination, they were
carefully inspected by potential buyers & sold at
auction to the highest bidder
Many owners sold slaves & separated slave families
not out of necessity but to increase their profits
The sheer size & profitability of the internal slave trade
made a mockery of southern claims for the
benevolence of the slave system
A coffle of slaves sold west from South Carolina
African American values & attitudes, and especially
their own forms of Christianity, played a vital part
in shaping a culture of endurance and resistance
Most lived on plantations with 20+ slaves
Even though slaves were considered property, only
the most brutal masters refused to see the
humanity of their slaves
White masters learned to live w/ the 2 key
institutions of African American communities:
 The Family
 Church
Hermitage plantation slave cabins, Savannah, GA - each 2 rooms, bedroom & kitchen
Growth of African American slave pop. Was due to the
high fertility rates of African American women (though
not as high as white women)
Mortality rates of slave children under five twice that
of white counterparts
 Due to the mothers being inadequately nourished, working
too hard, & were too frequently pregnant
Infectious diseases endemic in the South
 Life expectancy for whites 40-43 years
 Life expectancy for blacks 30-33 years
Malnutrition & lack of basic sanitation took a high toll
on slaves
Slavery was a lifelong labor system
Owners argued that by feeding &
housing them from birth to death,
they were more humane than their
northern counterparts
Children lived with their parents
 Would play with one another & the
white children of the plantation until
their were about 7 years old
At age 12, they were considered full
grown & put to work on the fields or
in their designated occupation
Marriage not legally recognized
but encouraged among slaves
 frequently not respected by masters
 a haven of love and intimacy for the
Parents gave children a supportive
and protective kinship network.
 Parents made great efforts to teach & protect their children
The internal slave trade made separation a constant
 Slave families were often split up.
 Separated children drew upon supportive networks of family
and friends.
Slaves were not permitted to practice African
religions, though numerous survivals did work their
way into the slaves’ folk culture.
The first and second Great Awakenings introduced
Christianity to many slaves.
In the 1790s, African American churches began
Whites hoped religion would make the slaves
Slaves found a liberating message that
strengthened their sense of community and
offered them spiritual freedom.
An 1860 slave burial “drawn from life” at the plantation of LA Gov. Tucker
Most slaves understood that they could not
escape bondage.
About 1,000 per year escaped, mostly from
the upper South.
Running away and hiding in the swamps or
woods for about a week and then returning
was more common
Harriet Tubman – gained fame by serving as a
scout, spay & nurse during Civil War
A few slaves organized revolts.
Gabriel Prosser and Denmark Vesey organized
large-scale conspiracies to attack whites in
Richmond and Charleston that failed.
Nat Turner led the most famous slave revolt in
Southampton County, Virginia in 1831.
 Turner used religious imagery to lead slaves as they
killed 55 whites.
 After Turner’s revolt, white southerners continually were
reminded by the threat of slave insurrection.
Nat Turner’s Rebellion 1831
By 1860, there were nearly 250,000 free African
Americans, mainly working as tenants or farm
In cities, free African American communities flourished
but had a precarious position as their members lacked
basic civil rights.
Throughout the South, state legislatures tightened
black codes
 Laws passed by states & municipalities denying many rights
of citizenship to free black people
 Could not carry firearms, purchase slaves (unless members
of their own family), liable to criminal penalties meted out to
slaves, could not testify against whites
The Middle Class
 A commercial middle class of merchants, bankers, factors, and
 arose to sell southern crops on the world market
 lived in cities that acted as shipping centers for agricultural goods
Poor White People
 Between 30 to 50 percent of southern whites were landless.
 These poor whites lived a marginal existence as laborers and
 They engaged in complex and sometimes clandestine relations
with slaves.
 Some yeomen hoped to acquire slaves themselves, but many
were content with self sufficient non-market agriculture.
 Yeomen supported slavery because they believed that it brought
them higher status.
 Two-thirds of all southern
whites lived in nonslaveholding families.
 Most yeomen were selfsufficient farmers.
 Their goal was economic
 The strong sense of
community was reinforced
by close kin connections
and bartering.
 Small Slave Owners
 Most slaveholders owned only a
few slaves.
 Bad crops or high prices that
curtailed or increased income
affected slave-holding status
 Middle class professionals had
an easier time climbing the
ladder of success.
 The Planter Elite
 Most slaveholders inherited their wealth but sought to
expand it.
As slavery spread so did the slave-owning elite
The extraordinary concentration of wealth created an
elite lifestyle.
Most wealthy planters lived fairly isolated lives.
Some planters cultivated an image of gracious living in
the style of English aristocrats, but plantations were
large enterprises that required much attention to a
variety of tasks.
Plantations aimed to be self-sufficient.
Following southern paternalism, in
theory, each plantation was a
family with the white master at its
The plantation mistress ran her
own household but did not
challenge her husband’s authority.
With slaves to do much of the
labor conventionally assigned to
women, it is no surprise that
plantation mistresses accepted the
Were responsible for
arrangements for visitors
The slave system rested on
coercion and violence.
Slave women were vulnerable
to sexual exploitation, though
long-term relationships
Children of master-slave
relationships seldom were
publicly acknowledged and
often remained in bondage
Abolitionist engraving by Alex Lawson: “Barbarity committed on a free African, who was found
on the ensuing morning, by the side of the road, dead!”
Slavery gave rise to various pro-slavery arguments
 in the post-Revolution era, Southern whites found
justifications in the Bible or classical Greece and Rome
 the Constitution recognized slavery and that they were
defending property rights
 by the 1830s arguments developed that slavery was
good for the slaves.
George Fitzhugh contrasted slavery, which created
a community of interests, with the heartless
individualism that ruled the lives of northern
factory workers.
Despite efforts to stifle debate,
some southern whites objected
to slavery.
The growing cost of slaves meant
that the percentage of
slaveholders was declining and
class divisions widening.
Hinton Rowan Helper denounced
the institution.
In six southern states, slaves comprised over 40 percent of the total population.