Slavery and the Slave Trade

Overview of Slavery and the Slave Trade in America

Slavery in American is closely tied in with the Colonial Period of American History. Jamestown the first English Colony in America was founded in the year 1607.

Around 12 years later in 1619 The first African slaves started to arrive in Colonial Virginia.

Compromise of 1850

One of the most controversial bills of the 1850 Compromise was the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Read more about the Compromise of 1850 >>

Helen Keller –

Helen Keller was a Famous American activist and Author Read more about the Helen Keller – >>

John Brown

John Brown was an American abolitionist who sought to bring an end to the institution of slavery Read more about the John Brown >>

Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Uncle Tom's Cabin was a Best Selling American Anti-Slavery novel published in 1852 Read more about the Uncle Tom’s Cabin >>

The majority of Slaves brought to America were from the African continent.

Slavery was just a part of everyday life during those early colonial years, it was legal in all of the first 13 Colonies and helped the Colonies develop at a much faster pace than would have been normally possible.

Slavery in the South West

Most African slaves were used as manual labor and this meant there was much more demand for them in Southern States were the climate was more agreeable to farming and outdoor work. American States such as Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana had the most robust Slave Trade.

The white population who had become wealthy were looking to expand and increase their fortunes by increasing their productivity. In later years other southern states would also become more involved in the Slave trade such as Arkansas, Texas and Missouri.

Slave Ship

Supply and Demand – North/South Divide

In the Southwest the climate was suited to growing cotton, but this kind of crop was very labor-intensive and needed a large supply of cheap labor, therefore this provided a huge demand for the African Slaves to work in the Cotton Fields.

The Northern States had much less demand for slaves as the climate was not suited to activities such as cotton production, also a new invention ‘cotton gin’ further increased the demand for slave labor in the South and the Southern states continued to be Slave states after the Northern states had abolished slavery by the year 1805.

This would be the eventual cause of the American Civil war.

Inside a Slave Ship

How Fortunes were made in the Slave Trade – ‘Selling South’

Slave Traders could make a fortune by supplying these in-demand workers to the Cotton Plantation owners of the South West, the strongest and hardest working slaves would also demand a premium price. Slave Traders such as Isaac Franklin and John Armfield are according to historical records to have made around $500,000 dollars in the slave trade.

A famous book which described the slave trade in the South West is called ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ this book describes how slaves feared being sold to the Southern cotton field owners due to the labor intensive work that was involved – this became know as ‘Selling South’.


Slave and Free Slave States

As different views emerged over the issue of Slavery the The United States started to split up into ‘Slave States’ and ‘Non-Slaves States’ the vast majority of slaves were still working the cotton fields of the south with the total slave population being around 4 million people.

Revolutionary War

During the Revolutionary war in which the colonies fought for their independence from Britain, laws were introduced to abolish Slavery both during and after the War which was welcomed in the Northern States but not in the Southern states, this led to an increased tensions between the Southern who had greatly benefited from the Slave trade and Northern States who had not.


Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War

In 1860 Abraham Lincoln won the election and became the next president of the United States, he had fought he campaign on a promise to end Slavery.

After his election seven southern states broke away from the rest of the country and formed the ‘Confederacy’, later to be joined by more Southern states.

The ‘Confederacy’ forces went on to attack the US Army’s Fort Sumter which forced Lincoln into retaliatory action and the American Civil War began.

End of Slavery

Lincoln and Union forces would go on to win the American Civil War. The ‘Confiscation Acts’ and ‘Emancipation Proclamation’ in 1863 was legislation brought to end slavery. The Thirteenth Amendment of December 1865 formally ended slavery and made it illegal throughout the United States.