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Historical Document
Charles Ball's narrative: Fifty Years in Chains

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Charles Ball was born into slavery in Maryland near the end of the 18th century, the son of a kidnapped African. When he was close to thirty years old, he was sold away from his wife and children to work on the cotton plantations of Georgia, a young colony that had repealed its ban on slavery in 1750 and become one of the harshest slave colonies. He escaped twice before settling as a fugitive in Pennsylvania, where he wrote an anonymous narrative entitled Fifty Years in Chains; or, The Life of an American Slave.

In Ball's autobiography, first published in 1836, he detailed how the development of the cotton gin and the subsequent increase in demand for slave labor affected the lives of enslaved African Americans. The passage included here describes his introduction to Georgian slavery, sometime around 1800.

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Cotton gin petition
Eli Whitney's cotton gin
The Cotton Press
List & Inventory of Negroes on Plantation...

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