Slavery: History and Historians

By Peter J. Parish | Go to book overview
Save to active project

The Labor of the Slaves

Despite the growing awareness among historians of the importance of the earlier history of slavery in North America, it remains true that our knowledge and understanding of the peculiar institution are greatest in its last few decades. Inevitably, much of the discussion of slave work patterns, the economics of slavery, and the life of the slave community must remain centered on slavery in its maturity, at what proved to be its historical peak in the antebellum South. It must be remembered, however, that during the last three or four decades of its history, slavery was still an expanding and evolving institution. For example, although the absolute numbers of slaveholders and slaves were still increasing rapidly, the proportion of Southern white families who owned slaves showed some decline in the immediate pre-Civil War period--from a little more than a third in 1830 to a little more than a quarter in 1860.1In the same period, there was a small but not insignificant increase in the average number of slaves per slave owner.

The census of 1860 showed that there were nearly 4 million slaves out of a total population of 12.3 million in the fifteen slave states. The proportion of slave to white population varied greatly from area to area, with the heaviest concentrations in the Deep South. In South Carolina and Mississippi more than half the population were slaves, and in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and Georgia the slave population was more than two-fifths. In no other state did slaves amount to one-third of the population; in Maryland, the proportion was 13 percent, in Missouri 10 percent, in Delaware a mere 1.5 percent. Overall, there were some 385,000 slave owners out of about 1.5 million white families (and a total white population of 8 million).


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Slavery: History and Historians


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 196

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?