Slave Plantations

Cotton Plantation - Slave Plantations

Cotton Slave Plantation in the Southern Colonies

This article on Slave Plantations providing facts and information about the different Slave Plantations in Colonial America:

  • Slave Plantations
  • Life on a Slave Plantation
  • Trade and Economic activity in the Slave Plantations
  • Slave Auctions
  • The role of the overseer and the owners of the slave plantations
  • History Timeline of Slave Plantations
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History of trade, plantations, colonialism and colonization in the 13 Colonies

Slave Plantations: Slaves in the southern colonies and the Slave Auctions

Slave Plantations
What were Slave Plantations? Definition of Slave Plantations: Slave Plantations can be defined as large farms in the colonies that used the enforced labor of slaves to harvest cotton, rice, indigo, sugar, tobacco and other farm produce for trade and export. Typical Slave Plantations ranged from 500 to 1,000 acres and each acre produced about 5,000 plants. Slave Plantations were vital to the profitability of the large farms located in the Southern colonies in Colonial America.

Slave Plantations in the Colonial South
The agriculture system based on Slave Plantations was implemented in the Southern Colonies during the Colonial period. The five Southern Colonies who introduced the system of Slave Plantations were composed of the Maryland Colony, Virginia Colony, North Carolina Colony, South Carolina Colony and the Georgia Colony. The reason that Slave Plantations sprang up in the South was due to the geography and climate of the Southern colonies.

  • The Geography of the Southern Colonies featured fertile soil, hilly coastal plains, forests, long rivers and swamp areas
  • Climate of the Southern Colonies: Mild winters and hot, humid summers made it possible to grow crops throughout the year and was ideally suited for Slave Plantations
  • The Southern Colonies concentrated on developing the enforced labor-based Slave Plantations
  • The slave plantations raised various crops. The main slave plantations were as follows:
    • Cotton Plantations
    • Tobacco Plantations
    • Rice Plantations
    • Sugar Plantations
    • Indigo Plantations
  • For full details of the crops refer to the article on Plantations

Slave Trade starting in Africa

Slave Trade starting in Africa

The Slave Plantations and the Slave Auctions
The slave trade started in West Africa when unfortunate men and women were forcibly dragged from their homelands and forced on to the slave ships. The slave ships followed a terrible 3000 mile route called the Middle passage to the West Indies and later to America. This Atlantic trade route was part of the English policy of Colonialism, Mercantilism and Triangular Trade. One the slaves had reached the areas of the Slave Plantations they were sold at slave auctions.

Slave Auction 

Slave Auction 

The Economy of the Slave Plantations
The economy of the Slave plantations were based on a system of agricultural mass production requiring a large labor force. Southern Slave Plantations were labor intensive requiring thousands of slaves across the southern colonies. There was no machinery to help the slaves and only oxen and horses for power - and these were in short supply. Vast areas of land areas had to be cleared for planting and crops had to be sewn and harvested by hand. Cheap labor was essential for the Slave Plantations to become profitable. Tobacco, rice, cotton, sugar cane and indigo were valuable plants and grown as cash crops.

Owners of the Slave Plantations
The owners of the large Slave Plantations were called planters and belonged to the planter aristocracy of the Southern Colonies. The owners of the Southern Slave Plantations were often the younger sons of British landowners, who perpetuated the English system of the 'landed gentry'. These wealthy owners emulated the lifestyle of the noble aristocracy and gentlemen farmers of England. The planters used some of their slaves as household servants. The houses of the planter aristocracy lived in Georgian style mansions often featuring frontages with Grecian style columns and large verandas.

Life on the Slave Plantations - the Role of the Overseer
On the large Southern Slave Plantations the owners relied heavily on overseers to run their Slave Plantations. Overseers were men hired by planters to manage and direct the work of slaves. Overseers were usually from the white, badly educated lower class - totally different from the refined plantation owners. The overseers were under considerable pressure from the plantation owners to maximize profits. In order to meet the requirements of the owners the overseers used fear to motivate the slaves and increase productivity. The punishments used by the overseers against slaves included the use of the cart-whip. The the role of the overseer in the Slave Plantations gained scant respect - they were looked down upon by the owners and slaves alike.

Slave beaten by an Overseer

Slave beaten by an Overseer

Life on the Slave Plantations
Life on the Slave Plantations in some ways emulated the life of a small village. Some of the Slave Plantations were massive and consisted of the main house or mansion, slave quarters, a dairy, blacksmith's shop, laundry, smokehouse and barns which made the Slave Plantations to large degree, self-sufficient. Crops were traded for items that could not be produced on the Slave Plantations. These items included farm tools, expensive textiles and furnishings, shoes, lace, and dishes. Slaves, both men and women, worked all year round undertaking back breaking work for up to 18 hours per day. The women were compelled to do as much as the men even if they were pregnant.  The use of slaves kept the costs down on the Slave Plantations. The plantation slaves lived in basic, crude wooden cabins consisting of one or two rooms, often with a dirt floor, in the slave quarters.

History Timeline of the Slave Plantations
Discover interesting  information and facts via this history timeline of Slave Plantations in the Southern Colonies.

History Timeline of the Slave Plantations
History Timeline of the Slave Plantations

1562England becomes involved in the slave trade when John Hawkins makes a massive profit by selling African slaves in the West Indies. The start of this History Timeline of the Slave Plantations...

1607The first permanent colony in America was founded at Jamestown, Virginia.

1619The first 20 Africans were brought to Virginia as Indentured servants

1600'sTobacco Plantations were established in the 1600's

1636The first American slave ship, called the Desire, is built and launched in Massachusetts

1641Massachusetts is the first colony to legalize slavery

1650Connecticut legalizes slavery

1662The Hereditary Slavery Virginia law decrees that children of black mothers “shall be bond or free according to the condition of the mother.”

1663Carolina was settled as a colony 

1663Maryland legalizes slavery

1664Maryland mandates lifelong servitude for all black slaves. The other Southern colonies of New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas, and Virginia all pass similar laws.

1680Virginia forbids slaves from bearing arms and from congregating in large numbers

1682Virginia declares that all imported black servants are slaves for life

1691South Carolina passes the first comprehensive slave codes to control slaves at the will of their masters

1694Rice cultivation is introduced into Carolina

1700'sRice Plantations were established in the early 1700's

1700'sIndigo Plantations were established in the early to mid 1700's

1700Pennsylvania legalizes slavery

1702New Jersey. The two parts of the colony of New Jersey were united into a royal colony until 1702

1705In Virginia Slaves are described as real estate and allows slave owners to bequeath their slaves. The same law allowed slave owners to “kill and destroy” runaway slaves.

1708Slaves outnumber colonists in South Carolina.

1715Maryland declares all slaves entering the province and their descendants to be slaves for life

17331733 - Georgia is settled

1738Georgia legalizes slavery

1739Rebellion of slaves in Stono, South Carolina

1740South Carolina passes the Negro Act 

175061% (145,000) of all slaves -- nearly 145,000 live in Virginia and Maryland, working in the tobacco plantations

40,000 slaves live on plantations in South Carolina and Georgia


1775The American Revolution, the War of Independence (1775- 1783)

1776Delaware prohibits the importation of African slaves

1778Virginia prohibits the importation of slaves  

1790The Census reveals that there are nearly 700,000 slaves in a nation of 3.9 million people.

1794The Cotton Gin is patented by Eli Whitney which sees the introduction of Cooton slave plantations

1800'sCotton Plantations established in the 1800's

1808The US bans the Slave Trade but smuggling continues

1822Slave rebellion led by Denmark Vesey in Charleston, South Carolina

1831Slave rebellion led by Nat Turner in Virginia

18611861-1865: United States Civil War 

1863President Abraham Lincoln leads the Emancipation Proclamation

1865Slavery is Abolished
History Timeline of the Slave Plantations
History Timeline of the Slave Plantations

Slave Plantations

  • Interesting Facts and information  the Plantations of Colonial America

  • Life on Slave Plantations

  • Fast Facts and info about life on Plantations in the Southern colonies

  • The Slave Plantations is great resource for kids

  • Social Studies Homework help for kids on life on the Plantation

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