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Antebellum South: Cotton Becomes King

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Leslie Schwalm

on 13 October 2016

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Transcript of Antebellum South: Cotton Becomes King

What was the "Cotton South," and why is it important?
How does cotton become the most
important crop produced by slave labor in the 19th century U.S.?
Impact of American
Revolution

Technology

Territorial expansion



Interstate Slave Trade

The Cotton Revolution


Consumer boycotts increase value of subsistence cotton production
cotton production becomes a patriotic activity during consumer boycotts
cotton cultivation gave planters an alternate use for land and slaves
Late 18th century: mechanization of British textile industry creates expanded demand for raw cotton
Obstacle: hand-cleaning cotton
1793: Eli Whitney's improvement on exisiting cotton gin technology
1790-1860: 1 million people sold from east (MD, VA, SC) to west (GA, MISS, ALA, TENN, LA, AK, TX)
U.S. seizure of Native lands and removal of Native populations, especially 1826-1838
Migration to the South's interior
US becomes leading producer of raw cotton in the world
Enslaved people, children & adults, were commodified and objects of speculation





Impact on enslaved people:
Varied by age: children, 30% chance of being sold; teenagers, 10%; adults, 5%; elderly, 2%
1 in 5 marriages separated by trade
Young women separated from families at vulnerable age (12-15 yr olds sold alone)
Constant source of anxiety and grief
Lack of generational depth on new farms and plantations
Coerced and commodified reproduction
Increased demand for slaves
Increased value of slaves*
Increased exploitation of slave laborers
Slavery at Mid-Century
of 2.5 million slaves in Southern agriculture,
73% were cultivating cotton
14% were cultivating tobacco
6% were cultivating sugar
5% were cultivating rice

Slave labor in 1850:




76% of southern white families did not own slaves
80% of all slaveowners owned fewer than 20 slaves
50% of all slaveowners owned only one slave
Less than 1% of all slaveowners owned 100 or more slaves (about 2300 families in a white population of 8 million)
MOST ENSLAVED PEOPLE WERE HELD ON PLANTATIONS

1860: 62% of all slaves lived on plantations, 1/3 on substantial plantations of more than 50 slaves.
1850: about 75,000 cotton plantations; ALA, MISS, GA: each had over 14,500 plantations.
1860 Patterns of slaveholding:





http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/12/10/opinion/20101210_Disunion_SlaveryMap.html
MOST SLAVEOWNERS WERE SMALL FARMERS,
raising mixed crops and livestock, frequently hiring skilled white labor as well as slave labor to supplement family labor and the work of a single slave owned by the family.
http://www.eliwhitney.org/7/sites/default/files/minisites/cotton/patent.html
1860: the South provides 2/3 of world's supply of cotton, and cotton accounts for 60% of US exports
the growing supply of cotton increased demand for textile machinery, leading to many 19th century inventions
the South's investments in cotton fueled the insurance industry, the shipping industry, and the majority of American financial institutions North & South
Northern manufacturers depended on southern markets for factory-produced goods
Eyre Crowe, After the Sale: Slaves Going South from Richmond, 1854. Oil on canvas.
Taylor, An American Slave Market, after 1852. Oil on canvas.
planters, needing $ to invest in land and slaves, prompted the growth of global capital markets from NY to London
http://lincolnmullen.com/projects/slavery/
Mapping slavery's geographic expansion:
Slave labor was tortured and deprived into
levels of efficiency and productivity unseen in any other aspect of the US economy (1820-1860, six-fold increase in productivity)
MOST SOUTHERN WHITES DID NOT OWN SLAVES, AND THOSE THAT DID OWNED FEW
The US economy was built on the commodification of enslaved people, whose bodies...

were used to secure loans for land and more slaves
were used to pay debts
when sold, were taxed to generate state and local revenue
were tortured into unprecedented levels of efficiency to extract as much profit as was possible from them
1808: Congress ends legal US
involvement in Atlantic Slave
Trade.
Investments in human property:
3 x manufacturing investments
3 x railroads investments
7 x banking investments
BUT: from the perspective of slaves:

1860: 62% of all slaves lived on plantations, 1/3 on substantial plantations of more than 50 slaves

1850:
73.4% of slaveholders held fewer than 10 slaves, BUT

73.4% of all slaves lived in units numbering more than 10.
The US economy was built on the commodification of enslaved people, whose bodies...

were used to secure loans for land and more slaves
were used to pay debts
when sold, were taxed to generate state and local revenue
were tortured into unprecedented levels of efficiency to extract as much profit as was possible from them
Slave labor was tortured and deprived into
levels of efficiency and productivity unseen in any other aspect of the US economy (1820-1860, six-fold increase in productivity)
planters, needing $ to invest in land and slaves, prompted the growth of global capital markets from NY to London
Northern manufacturers depended on southern markets for factory-produced goods
the South's investments in cotton fueled the insurance industry, the shipping industry, and the majority of American financial institutions North & South
1860: the South provides 2/3 of world's supply of cotton, and cotton accounts for 60% of US exports
Slavery's regional, national, and global reach
How do you think southern whites responded
to the increasing proportion of enslaved people
in the population?
Full transcript