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The Geography of Slavery. What we’re doing. Review Class Work/Assignments Lecture on Slavery with comments (from you) Web site Review using assignment sheet Recap and Discussion. Class Work. Culminating Activity : Lesson plan & student work - everyone does this, anytime

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The Geography of Slavery

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what we re doing
What we’re doing
  • Review Class Work/Assignments
  • Lecture on Slavery
    • with comments (from you)
  • Web site Review
    • using assignment sheet
  • Recap and Discussion
class work
Class Work
  • Culminating Activity: Lesson plan & student work - everyone does this, anytime
  • Web-blog: 3 (long). . . (comments)(short) . . .
  • Reflective Posts . . . 4
  • Section Assignments . . . 3
  • Questions . . .
the slave trade
The Slave Trade
  • 1701-1810-Height of the slave trade.
  • Slave Trade was a multi-cultural enterprise.
    • Blacks captured slaves and transported them to Barricos on the coast to be sold to white traders.
    • Malaria prevented whites from penetrating the African interior. Slave trade was as much a black as a white undertaking.
    • Roots inaccurate.
  • Example of Specialization According to Comparative Advantage. The common perception is that slavery was associated with cotton (Gone with the Wind). This is wrong.
    • Cotton and tobacco were not the most important crops in the slave trade (as opposed to slave system).
    • Sugar was the crop which drove the slave trade.
    • 80% of slaves were imported before 1810-before cotton production really got going.

Enslaved Africans being Carried to a Slave Ship, Gold Coast, late 17th cent., from Thomas Astley (ed.), A New General Collection of Voyages and Travels (London, 1745-47), vol. 2, plate 61.

Notes . . .
  • Slavery abolished in British Caribbean and South America mostly before 1850.
    • Emancipation accomplished largely through non-violent methods which included payments to slave owners to compensate them for their financial investments in slaves.
  • In 1860, America left as the last great slave system.
    • Although the vast majority of blacks brought to the New World as slaves were sent to countries outside the U.S., the more favorable demographic conditions in the U.S. led to a higher survival and reproduction rate of U.S. blacks.
    • Over time the U.S. slave population grew to be the largest in the world.
  • The U.S. was a minor player in the slave trade, but by 1860 was the Great Slave Power in the world.
  • U.S. slavery differed from slavery in other parts of the new world because U.S. slaves engaged in Cotton rather than Sugar production.
    • The absence of sugar culture had a profound effect on the character of US slavery.
  • Percentage of slaves in general population much lower in U.S. compared to Caribbean.
  • Economies of scale plus climate meant that sugar colonies were heavily black.
  • Sugar plantations were some of the largest economic organizations of their times.
  • Many plantations had 100’s of slaves-little contact with whites and European culture.
  • Nature of sugar production required heavy labor-cutting the cane and squeezing the sugar out in large presses.
  • Little productive work for women-led to the importation primarily of men and a sex imbalance among the slave population.
  • In many sugar colonies, whites comprised less than 20% of the population sometimes less than 10% of the population.
cotton and the slave population
Cotton and the Slave Population
  • Slavery in the U.S.- General Outlines
    • Although slavery was prevalent in all states in the colonial period, by 1860 slavery was concentrated in the southern states and in cotton production.
    • Moving South and West, the slave labor force under the direction of it’s white masters created one of the great success stories of American Economic History.
    • Whitney’s Cotton Gin (1793) enabled short staple cotton to be separated on a competitive commercial basis by mechanical means, enabling the domination of world markets by American cotton.
    • From 1820 to 1860, cotton output rose by a factor of 11.5, the slave population by 2.5, and output per slave by a factor of 4.6.
    • From 1790 to 1860 the slave population in the South grew slightly more rapidly than the white population---in the absence of significant slave imports.
    • Ownership of slaves became more concentrated by the 1850’s. Southern families owning slaves fell from 36% in 1830 to 25% in 1860.

Southwestern expansion of slavery, 1790-1860: Source: Henretta et al., America’s History Vol 1: To 1877 (Bedford/St. Martin, 4th Ed., 2000), 293

northern slavery
Northern Slavery
  • In most of the North, lack of substantial commercial agriculture precluded a demand for large-scale forced labor; slaves served in a variety of capacities, from house service to skilled crafts and day labor
  • But slavery did not serve as the basis for their economy.
  • In a few areas-often where water transportation provided ready access to markets, commercial agriculture flourished, and so did slavery (although on a much smaller scale than in the South)
  • In New York, for example, slaves cultivated wheat on farm s along the Hudson River and on Long Island
  • in the Narragansett country of Rhode Island , they helped raise dairy cows and racehorses.
  • In such areas, slaves could exceed 20 percent of the population, although the colony-wide proportion of slaves in New York and Rhode Island was much smaller.

Negroes are “an heathenish, brutish and an uncertaine, dangerous kinde of people”—1661 slave code, Barbados.

these buccolic scenes mask
These buccolic scenes mask

“Of 100 people seized in Africa, 75 would have reached the marketplaces in the interior; 85 percent of them, or about 64 of the original 100, would have arrived at the coast; after losses of 11 percent in the barracoons, 57 or so would have boarded the ships; of those 57, 51 would have stepped onto Brazilian soil, and 48 or 49 would have lived to behold their first master in the New World. The full ‘seasoning’ period of 3-4 years would leave only 28 or 30 of the original 100 alive and working.”

--Joseph Miller, Way of Death, p. 440.

primary sources on the web
Primary Sources on the Web
  • A series of different perspectives on the middle passage:
  • Extract from Alexander Falconbridge, An Account of the Slave Trade on the West Coast of Africa (1788):
  • An address to the Loyal Citizens and Congress of the United States of America adopted by a convention of Negroes held in Alexandria, Virginia, from August 2 to 5, 1865:
  • Extract from Bryan Edwards, The History, Civil and Commercial, of the British Colonies in the West Indies (1793):
  • Testimony of Edward Hicks, Henry Blue, Thomas Hedgebeth, Harry Thomas, and William Hall, all slaves who had run away from US slaveowners and were resident in Canada, 1850:
  • The Confessions of Nat Turner, the leader of the late Insurrection in Southampton, VA, as fully and voluntarily made to Thomas R. Gray, in the prison where he was confined. 1832:
  • A narrative of the most remarkable particulars in the life of James Albert Ukawsaw Gronniosaw, an African prince, written by himself. 1774.
  • Frederick Law Olmstead, A Journey in the Seaboard States (1856):
  • Frances Kemble, Journal of a Residence on a Georgian Plantation (1863):



Enslaved population as proportion of total population:

English West Indies Virginia and Maryland

1660 42% 2%

1700 81% 13.1%

Source: Robin Blackburn, The Making of New World Slavery: From the Baroque to the Modern 1492-1800 (1997).

southern culture and slave culture
Southern Culture and Slave Culture
  • 1. What is culture?
  • Culture is ordinary: that is the first fact. Every human society has its own shape, its own purposes, its own meanings. Every human society expresses these, in institutions, and in arts and learning. The making of a society is the finding of common meanings and directions, and its growth is an active debate and amendment under the pressures of experience, contact, and discovery, writing themselves into the land. The growing society is there, yet it is also made and remade in every individual mind. The making of a mind is, first, the slow learning of shapes, purposes, and meanings, so that work, observation and communication are possible. Then, second, but equal in importance, is the testing of these in experience, the making of new observations, comparisons, and meanings. We use the word culture in these two senses: to mean a whole way of life--the common meanings; to mean the arts and learning--the special processes of discovery and creative effort.
  • --Raymond Williams
  • How do cultures change?
  • African to African American
  • European to Euro-American
  • Some examples:
  • Language: pidgins to creoles
  • Religion
  • Health and disease
  • Differences and similarities among African-American cultures
slave resistance
Slave Resistance
  • Rebellions
  • Day-to-day Resistance
  • Why the interest in resistance?
  • Contradiction of pro-slavery stereotypes?
  • Index of slave discontent?
  • A 'moment of truth'?
  • Timeline on Slave Rebellions (scroll down from the stuff on Bristol and the slave trade):
  • Resistance?
  • New Jersey. A slave takes a horse belonging to his master, and rides off at night, attempting to establish himself as a free man.
  • Cuba: The first gang of slaves on a sugar plantation refuse to work one morning. Instead they walk to the nearest town and seek out a magistrate, to whom they complain that several of their fellow slaves have been beaten for doing nothing wrong. The magistrate listens to the slaves, says that he will have a word with the overseer and suggest that he is less harsh in future, and tells them to return to work. They go back to their plantation.
  • Brazil: Two slaves break into the store house on their plantation and take pieces of smoked meat, which they eat. They share it with a few of their friends. The meat in the storehouse is used mainly to feed the planter's family, but every Sunday the planter distributes a small portion of the meat to the slaves.
Continued . . .
  • St. Kitts: A wooden building on a plantation catches fire. The building is used to store the highly flammable 'trash' from processing sugar cane for later use as fuel. The overseer and other whites on the plantation call for everyone to rally round and put out the fire. The slaves take action to put out the fire--very slowly. The fire spreads to the rest of the estate's sugar-processing works, all of which burn down.
  • USA: Slave women have children at a higher rate than do white women. The mothers, along with other members of the slave community, nurture the children and raise them to have pride in themselves, their families, and their culture.
  • Jamaica: A slave runs away from her plantation, taking her two children with her. At night, she goes to the provision grounds of slaves on another plantation, and digs up some of the crop of yams, which she later cooks to feed herself and her children.
  • South Carolina: The overseer on a rice plantation taunts one of the slaves, insulting his work and his physical appearance. The slave stops work and shouts back at the overseer. The two men get involved in a hand-to-hand fight in which both are slightly injured.
  • Jamaica, 1655: Escaped slaves establish their own communities in the mountains of Jamaica, which come to be called 'maroon' communities. The English settlers attempt to wipe out these communities, using military force. The maroons fight the English, using guerrilla tactics.
  • Demerara, 1823. Thinking that slavery has been abolished but that their masters are denying them their freedom, thousands of slaves rise up and march towards the capital, capturing the white people they meet on their way, and demanding the end of slavery.
  • Martinique: Female slaves pass along knowledge of herbal methods of inducing abortion. Many of them abort their pregnancies.

“And on the 12th of May, 1828, I heard a loud noise in the heavens, and the Spirit instantly appeared to me and said the Serpent was loosened, and Christ had laid down the yoke he had borne for the sins of men, and that I should take it on and fight against the Serpent, for the time was fast approaching when the first should be last and the last should be first. Ques. Do you not find yourself mistaken now? Ans. Was not Christ crucified.”

Slavery . . . .
  • The geography is both world-wide (Atlantic system) and American (North/South, Region/State)
  • The geography is cultural in South:
    • Plantations(1%; > 100 slaves) vs. Yeoman (no slaves) vs. “Poor Whites” (Clay eaters, Pine Barrens, etc.)
  • The geography is also topical (resistance, rebellion, immigrants, race, economics)
    • note the great runaway lesson at Virginia Tech site
Reflections . . .
  • What strikes you now about this topic?
  • What have you learned . . .
    • new connections?
  • Where would you go from here?
    • new hypothesis . . . teaching . . .
interesting things to leave you with
Interesting Things to Leave You With
  • One person died during the Civil War for every slave that was freed as a result of the War
  • WPA Interviews
    • Between 1936 and 1938, some 300 interviewers employed by the Federal Writers Project questioned 2200 former slaves in 17 states about life under slavery. This amounted to about 2 percent of all former slaves surviving at the time the interviews were taken. Most were born during the last years of slavery or during the Civil War.
    • Because the interviews were conducted seventy years after the end of slavery, most of the people interviewed were in their 80s or older. Most had only been children during slavery.
    • You can find a selection of the narratives on-line at
  • Address the following four areas in your website review:
  • * Content: Is the scholarship sound and current? What is the interpretation or point of view?
  • * Form: Is it clear? Easy to navigate? Is it accessible to all users? Does it have a clear, effective, and original design? Does it have a coherent structure?
  • * Audience/Use: Is the audience clear? Will it serve the needs of that audience?
  • * New Media: Does it make effective use of the web? Does it do something that could not be done in print, an exhibition, or a film?

next class
Next Class
  • Those who Choose to do website review project will present
    • please send me the review 3 days prior to class (Monday, Nov. 2nd)
  • Brief Review of material and a short lecture
  • Introduction to next section