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18th & 19th century: Slavery in the American South

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Social Studies

Upon arriving in America, families taken from Africa were separated and stripped of their identities. Slaves were now identified as their owner's property and forced to work in extreme conditions. Women took on roles outside of field labor, helping caretake and mother the children of their master's instead of their own. After, the decline of tobacco, the invention of the cotton gin helped to increase the production of cotton, making slaves more valuable to southern colonists. However, in the late 18th century, the abolitionist movement began in the North; this became the start of a divide between the North and South. The North had transitioned industrially and had withdrawn from the institution of slavery while the South continued to thrive and profit from it.

By 1840, Southern slaves were growing most of the world's cotton. However, most if not all slaves hated their living conditions becoming increasingly rebellious by working slowly or escaping North. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 also known as the Compromise of 1850, soon came into effect after slaves began to flee from the South to the North successfully. The law required the government to return fugitive slaves who escaped from their Southern owner's. This legislation further carried the conversation of the morality of slavery. Northern abolitionists continued to fight for the freedom of slaves further increasing animosity with the less progressive South. Shortly after, the Civil War would take place, denouncing the practice of slavery forever. Slavery is an inhumane system that exploited human beings and destroyed their identity.  This exhibit contains images and objects pertaining to this period of slavery in the American South.


1. Dattel, E. R. (2008, June). Cotton and the Civil War . Retrieved from http://mshistorynow.mdah.state...

2. Social Welfare History Project (2011). Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Social Welfare History Project. Retrieved from http://socialwelfare.library.v...

3. Abolitionist Movement. (2009). Retrieved from

Cabin from Point of Pines Plantation in Charleston County, South Carolina

National Museum of African American History and Culture

Mammy "Wet-nursing" infant

Slave Nursing White Baby, Envelope 2,” 1861-1865. John A. McCaUister Collection: Civil War Envelopes (Library Company of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pa.)

Reproduction of Eli Whitney's Cotton Gin Model

National Museum of American History

Slave whip owned by British abolitionist Charles James Fox

National Museum of African American History and Culture

"Cotton Is King"

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Photographs and Prints Division

The Battle of Fort Sumter

Currier & Ives, courtesy Library of Congress