Plantation Economy • The south was ideal for cash crops like rice and tobacco. • Crops required much labor. • Transportation of crops was easy due to ports and waterways. • Plantations were self-sufficient and so cities did not grow as large as those in the North with Charles Town (Charlestown) being the exception.
The Turn to Slavery • Before about 1660 slaves, slave owners, and indentured servants all worked the fields together. • In the 1660’s indentured servants began to leave plantations because they had saved enough $ to buy land of their own. • Planters tried to force Indians to work for them, but many caught European diseases and died while others ran away. • To meet labor needs planters turned to slavery. • By 1750 (about 100 years later) there were over 235,000 slaves in America and 85% of these lived in the South.
Plantations Expand • Slaves drained swamps, raked fields, burned stubble and turned the ground for planting. • Fields had to be tended constantly by hand since there was no farm machinery. • Rice growing also required some agricultural skill and West African slaves had the necessary skills. • Rice was grown in the low lands where the soil was more swampy and indigo was grown on higher, drier ground
The Planter Class • Slave labor allowed the planters to accumulate great wealth which, in turn, gave them political clout (wealth buys power…always has, always will) • And it was a self-perpetuating system: the more money you had the more slaves you could buy; the more slaves you had the more crops you could grow; the more crops you could grow, the more money you had; the more money you had, the more slaves you could buy….
Many slave owners only owned one or two slaves and they could not compete with the large planters, yet the wealthy planters with many slaves represented only a small fraction of the white population in the South. • However, because of their great wealth and power, the small amount of wealthy planters could live much as the European nobility lived. • While not all planters treated their slaves badly, slavery is still slavery no matter how you paint it.
Life Under Slavery • Slaves worked in groups of about 20-25 under the supervision of overseers on plantations. • Slaves worked from daylight till dark most of the year. • Slaves lived in one-room cabins that only had sleeping cots. • The barest minimum of food was provided by the slave owner and some slaves were allowed to plant small gardens to help supplement their diet. • Africans preserved their customs and beliefs by handing down their culture from one generation to the next.
Resistance to Slavery • Slaves often worked to fight against their enslavement in passive aggressive ways. • They would work more slowly or purposely sabotage farm equipment or directions from overseers. • One of the most famous early slave rebellions was the Stono Rebellion. • In 1739 slaves gathered at the Stono River just south of Charles Town. • They had gotten a hold of guns and other weapons and they killed several planter families (men, women, children). • They planned to march through Georgia to get to Spanish Florida and freedom (how do the Spanish feel about slavery?) • However, by late afternoon a white militia had surrounded the group of slaves and captured or killed all of them.
Whenever there was a slave uprising like this, planters would make increasingly harsh rules on the slaves. • This institution of slavery caused the southern colonies to grow economically and culturally in a very different way from the rest of the colonies.