Drawing the Color Line
The Old South, a region of great geographic diversity, 1 may well be understood best when viewed as a society of masters and slaves. Yet in 1619, when a Dutch ship loaded with a cargo of twenty Africans arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, it hardly suggested the extent of slavery's future development in North America during the next 250 years. Scholars have written, in fact, that the social and economic characteristics of what subsequently became the Old South differed little from those of the North down to the time of the American Revolution. 2 In the early years of the American colonial period there was every indication that the South, like the North, would have an agrarian economy worked by yeoman farmers rather than by hundreds, thousands, and then millions of slaves. 3 But the emerging Old South was to fix a place in history in its own way, a way that would become defined by the white South's relationship to a growing number of black slaves on its plantations and farms.
Slavery existed legally in the North, in New Jersey, until 1846. But by comparison with the Old South the number of northern bondsmen in nineteenth-century America was not large. In 1830 the North had 3,568 slaves, two-thirds of these living in New Jersey,