The Cotton Belt 1801–60

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Map Code: Ax01971

The term ‘Cotton Belt’ refers to the region in the southern US where, from 1801–60, cotton became the predominant cash crop. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin (1794), which abnegated the need for manual separation of cotton fibres from the seed, cotton growth was confined to the lower Mississippi River and coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Growers in Natchez, Mississippi, used hybrid cotton plants and advanced mechanization to fuel cotton growing. By 1839 much of the southeast and Deep Southern uplands were dominated by cotton plantations. By 1860, northern central Florida, eastern Texas and Arkansas were also involved in cotton production, with Texas known as the Black Belt, because of its fertile soil and high proportion of slaves. The Cotton Belt fuelled the slave-trade, with large numbers of slaves required for high yields. After the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in 1808, slaves were procured using internal markets.

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