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Out of Many Chapter 10. The South & Slavery. King Cotton & Southern Expansion. 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

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The South & Slavery

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Out of Many

Chapter 10

The South & Slavery

King Cotton & Southern Expansion

  • 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, NC, SC, GA, KY, TN, MO, AL, MS, LA, AR, FL, & TX

  • Created a regional culture quite different from that of the North

Cotton Gin

  • Cotton had one drawback: the seeds were so difficult to remove

  • Took 1 day to hand-clean 1 lb. of cotton

  • Eli Whitney, Yale graduate, northerner

    • Hired as a tutor for a southern plantation

  • Catherine Greene, widow, plantation owner

  • 1793, built the cotton engine, or “gin”

    • Catherine suggested making the teeth out of wire

  • Suddenly you could clean 50 lbs. of cotton per day

Southwest Expansion

  • 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

The Economics of Slavery

  • Worldwide demand for cotton supported slavery

  • Export of cotton a dynamic part of American economy

  • Financed northern industrial development

  • 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 Industrial Revolution

  • 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

A Slave Society in a Changing World

  • 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 & railroads

    • 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

To Be a Slave

  • In 1850, 55% of all slaves were engaged in cotton growing

  • 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.

Internal Slave Trade

  • 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 thisinternal slave trade &forced to migrate than werebrought to N. America duringthe entire time theinternational slave trade waslegal


  • 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 more

  • 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

The African American Community

  • 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

The Price of Survival

  • 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

From Cradle to Grave

  • 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

Slave Families

  • Marriage not legally recognized but encouraged among slaves

    • frequently not respected by masters

    • a haven of love and intimacy for theslaves

  • Parents gave children a supportiveand protective kinship network.

    • Parents made great efforts to teach & protect their children

  • The internal slave trade made separation a constant danger

    • Slave families were often split up.

    • Separated children drew upon supportive networks of family and friends.

African American Religion

  • 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 emerging.

  • Whites hoped religion would make the slaves obedient.

  • 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

Freedom & Resistance

  • 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

Slave Revolts

  • 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

Free African Americans

  • By 1860, there were nearly 250,000 free African Americans, mainly working as tenants or farm laborers.

  • 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 White Majority

  • The Middle Class

  • A commercial middle class of merchants, bankers, factors, and lawyers

  • 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 tenants.

    • 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.

  • The White Majority

    • Yeoman

      • Two-thirds of all southern whites lived in non-slaveholding families.

      • Most yeomen were self-sufficient farmers.

      • Their goal was economic independence

      • 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.

    The Plantation Mistress

    • Following southern paternalism, in theory, each plantation was a family with the white master at its head.

    • 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 system.

    • Were responsible for arrangements for visitors

    Coercion & Violence

    • The slave system rested on coercion and violence.

    • Slave women were vulnerable to sexual exploitation, though long-term relationships developed.

    • 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!”

    The Defense of Slavery:Proslavery Arguments

    • Slavery gave rise to various pro-slavery arguments including:

      • 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.

    Defense of Slavery:Southern Anti-Slavery

    • 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.

    Population Patterns

    In six southern states, slaves comprised over 40 percent of the total population.

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