Tobacco/Cotton Slavery FRQ
Compare and contrast the experience of slaves on tobacco plantations in the early seventeenth-century Chesapeake region with that of slaves on nineteenth-century cotton plantations in the Deep South. What forces transformed the institution of slavery the early seventeenth century to the nineteenth century? When approaching slavery from a historical standpoint, it is a tendency to generalize the experience of slaves. However, slavery differs per region and time period. The differing climates of the Chesapeake region and Deep South determined the crops that would be grown and consequently the severity of slave labor. Likewise, over time slavery evolved from a class based system (poor indentured servants working alongside blacks) to a
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In the nineteenth century, the institution of slavery peaked economically and politically. Cotton slavery was a lucrative industry. This was made possible by Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793, and the British Industrial Revolution. The British had an increased need for cotton for their growing textile industry. The cotton gin allowed slaves to more efficiently yield cotton. Thus, the supply-demand relationship gave rise to massive plantations, some owning hundreds of slaves. The fortunes in slavery were clear by the huge estates of planters and many acres of slave-tended fields. Although, the Atlantic Slave Trade was outlawed in 1808, the slave population in America was self-sustaining (it would eventually peak at about four million before the Civil War). In addition, illegal Atlantic slave trade continued as well as trading within the country (take for example the Second Middle Passage). Slavery, now legally restricted to southern states, was the core of the southern agrarian economy. Because it was so lucrative, planters took initiatives to ensure productivity from their slaves. Whipping was a common practice. Also, Fugitive Slave Laws gave planters the right to their slaves as property, even if they escaped to the free North. Slave codes were strict, and even an inappropriate greeting could guarantee a slave punishment. In response to rebellions like that of Denmark Vesey in 1822 or the Nat Turner Insurrection of 1831, paranoia was high.