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African in America logo tabled version
Brotherly Love
Part 1: 1450-1750
Part 2: 1750-1805
<---Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865


Narrative | Resource Bank | Teacher's Guide


Growth and Entrenchment of Slavery
This Ginn, if turned with horses or by water, two persons will clean as much cotton in one Day as a Hundred persons could cleane in the same time

- Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin

Although there was some hope immediately after the Revolution that the ideals of independence and equality would extend to the black American population, this hope died with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. With the gin (short for engine), raw cotton could be quickly cleaned; Suddenly cotton became a profitable crop, transforming the southern economy and changing the dynamics of slavery. The first federal census of 1790 counted 697,897 slaves; by 1810, there were 1.2 million slaves, a 70 percent increase.

Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin
Cotton Gin Petition
The Cotton Press


Slavery spread from the seaboard to some of the new western territories and states as new cotton fields were planted, and by 1830 it thrived in more than half the continent. Within 10 years after the cotton gin was put into use, the value of the total United States crop leaped from $150,000 to more than $8 million. This success of this plantation crop made it much more difficult for slaves to purchase their freedom or obtain it through the good will of their masters. Cotton became the foundation for the developing textile industry in New England, spurring the industrial revolution which transformed America in the 19th century.

Progress has different meanings for different people. And for people of African descent, the cotton gin was not progress. It was a further entrenchment of enslavement. And for African Americans, the Industrial Revolution, those technological advances in the textile industry, did not mean progress. It meant slavery.

- Margaret Washington, historian

From 1790 to 1810, close to 100,000 slaves moved to the new cotton lands to the south and west. From 1810 until the Civil War, 100,000 slaves were forced westward each decade -- a half million in total. As cotton cultivation spread, slaveholders in the tobacco belt, whose crop was no longer profitable, made huge profits by selling their slaves. This domestic slave trade devastated black families. American-born slaves were torn from the plantations they had known all their lives, placed in shackles and force-marched hundreds of miles away from their loved ones.
In 1781, Thomas Jefferson wrote his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia. His description of the state included controversial statements about the inferiority of blacks.
Since the 1790s, abolitionists had been demanding that the United States put an end to its international slave trade. The Pennsylvania Abolition Society, the Quakers in New York, and other organizations presented anti-slave trade memorials to Congress. In January 1800, free black people in Philadelphia petitioned Congress to end the trade. In the meantime, though, the cotton boom spurred slaves imported from Africa: 20,000 came to Georgia and South Carolina in 1803 alone. Finally, on January 1, 1808, Congress did officially ban the international slave trade, a right granted it under the terms of the U.S. Constitution. Black communities throughout the country celebrated the long-awaited event. Absalom Jones gave a sermon at Philadelphia's African Church, commemorating the day as one of thanksgiving. Even following the ban, however, an illegal international slave trade continued.

Jones's sermon on the abolition of the international slave trade

Some in Britain, where slavery had now been abolished, found the issue of slavery in America highly entertaining. English actor Charles Mathews used the Jim Crow character in "A Trip to America," his one-man show in black-face in 1822, and Northern abolitionists were lampooned in an English newspaper in 1830.

Jim Crow
William McLean: "Offended Dignity".

The cotton boom and the resulting demand for slaves brought increased danger for northern free blacks: the possibility of being kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. The practice of kidnapping was frighteningly widespread. The 1793 Fugitive Slave Act enabled any white person to claim a black person as a fugitive, unless another white person testified otherwise. Blacks were not allowed to testify against whites in court according to southern law. Absalom Jones petitioned Congress for the protection of free blacks, to no avail. Children were highly vulnerable to kidnapping rings. Often indentured and living away from their parents, they could disappear without anyone noticing, since their employers assumed they had gone to their families. And since children changed so much as they grew, there was little likelihood of their being recognized and rescued after years of slavery. Many southern slaveowners took a "no questions asked" approach to purchasing slaves. Kidnapped free blacks joined the slaves who had been imported into the lower South, where they were work conditions were difficult and unhealthy.

Kidnapping in Pennsylvania
Kidnapping a Free Negro to be sold into Slavery
Petition of the People of Color . . . Philadelphia
The Author noting down the narratives...
A Slave is Tortured

The spread of slavery westward led to bitter debate in Congress, as new states entering the Union could tip the balance between proslavery and free voting blocs. The Missouri Compromise of 1820 resolved a crisis over the admission of Missouri as a slave state, and for a while, established a boundary for slave lands westward across the Louisiana purchase territories. But as the century progressed, the spirit of compromise would prove increasingly fragile.

List & Inventory of Negroes...
The Missouri Compromise



Part 3 Narrative:

Introduction
Map: The Growing Nation
Philadelphia
Freedom and Resistance
The Black Church
Colonization
Conspiracy and Rebellions
• Growth and Entrenchment of Slavery




Part 3: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

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