The Slaveholding Population 1860


Map Code: Ax01985

Between 1800–60, the slave population grew from 800,000 to nearly 4,000,000; in 1860 almost one-third of southern families owned slaves. Of these, nearly 50 per cent had fewer than five slaves, with a much smaller proportion owning three slaves, or less. The slaveholders who owned 15 slaves or above were predominantly in the cotton growing regions, which required larger acreages and more slave labour. After the invention of the cotton gin in the late 1700s and the concomitant demand for slave labour and more territory, slavery spread southwards and westwards. By 1840 cotton was ‘king’ and when Texas became a state in 1845 its fertile soil was used for cotton growing. Slaves became valuable commodities, with demand outpacing supply. Many families in the Upper South made a fortune by selling their surplus slaves to the cotton growing regions in Texas, Florida and the Deep South.

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