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The breeding of enslaved people in the United States was the practice in slave states of the United States of slave owners to systematically force the reproduction of enslaved people to increase their profits.It included coerced sexual relations between enslaved men and women or girls, forced pregnancies of enslaved people, and favoring women or young girls who could produce a relatively large number of children. The objective was to increase the number of slaves without incurring the cost of purchase, and to fill labor shortages caused by the abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.
The laws that ultimately abolished the Atlantic slave trade came about as a result of the efforts of British abolitionist Christian groups such as the Society of Friends, known as Quakers, and Evangelicals led by William Wilberforce, whose efforts through the Committee for the Abolition of the Slave Trade led to the passage of the 1807 Slave Trade Act by the British parliament in 1807.This led to increased calls for abolition in America, supported by members of the U.S. Congress from both the North and the South as well as President Thomas Jefferson.
At the same time that the importation of slaves from Africa was being restricted or eliminated, the United States was undergoing a rapid expansion of cotton, sugar cane, and rice production in the Deep South and the West. Invention of the cotton gin enabled the profitable cultivation of short-staple cotton, which could be produced more widely than other types; this led to the economic preeminence of cotton throughout the Deep South. Slaves were treated as a commodity by owners and traders alike, and were regarded as the crucial labor for the production of lucrative cash crops that fed the triangle trade.
The slaves were managed as chattel assets, similar to farm animals. Slave owners passed laws regulating slavery and the slave trade, designed to protect their financial investment. The enslaved workers had no more rights than a cow or a horse, or as famously put by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Dred Scott decision, "they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect". On large plantations, enslaved families were separated for different types of labor. Men tended to be assigned to large field gangs. Workers were assigned to the task for which they were best physically suited, in the judgment of the overseer.
The prohibition on the importation of slaves into the United States after 1808 limited the supply of slaves in the United States. This came at a time when the invention of the cotton gin enabled the expansion of cultivation in the uplands of short-staple cotton, leading to clearing lands cultivating cotton through large areas of the Deep South, especially the Black Belt. The demand for labor in the area increased sharply and led to an expansion of the internal slave market. At the same time, the Upper South had an excess number of slaves because of a shift to mixed-crops agriculture, which was less labor-intensive than tobacco. To add to the supply of slaves, slaveholders looked at the fertility of slave women as part of their productivity, and intermittently forced the women to have large numbers of children. During this time period, the terms "breeders", "breeding slaves", "child bearing women", "breeding period", and "too old to breed" became familiar.
Planters in the Upper South states started selling slaves to the Deep South, generally through slave traders such as Franklin and Armfield. Louisville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River was a major slave market and port for shipping slaves downriver by the Mississippi to the South. New Orleans had the largest slave market in the country and became the fourth largest city in the US by 1840 and the wealthiest, mostly because of its slave trade and associated businesses.
In the antebellum years, numerous escaped slaves wrote about their experiences in books called slave narratives. Many recounted that at least a portion of slave owners continuously interfered in the sexual lives of their slaves (usually the women). The slave narratives also testified that slave women were subjected to rape, arranged marriages, forced matings, sexual violation by masters, their sons or overseers, and other forms of abuse.
The historian E. Franklin Frazier, in his book The Negro Family, stated that "there were masters who, without any regard for the preferences of their slaves, mated their human chattel as they did their stock." Ex-slave Maggie Stenhouse remarked, "Durin' slavery there were stockmen. They was weighed and tested. A man would rent the stockman and put him in a room with some young women he wanted to raise children from."
Several factors coalesced to make the breeding of slaves a common practice by the end of the 18th century, chief among them the enactment of laws and practices that transformed the view of slaves from "personhood" into "thinghood". In this way, slaves could be bought and sold as chattel without presenting a challenge to the religious beliefs and social mores of the society at large. All rights were to the owner of the slave, with the slave having no rights of self-determination either to his or her own person, spouse, or children.
Slaveholders began to think that slavery was grounded in the Bible. This view was inspired in part by an interpretation of the Genesis passage "And he said, Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren." (Genesis 9); Ham, son of Noah and father of Canaan, was deemed the antediluvian progenitor of the African people. Some whites used the Bible to justify the economic use of slave labor. The subjugation of slaves was taken as a natural right of the white slave owners. The second class position of the slave was not limited to his relationship with the slave master but was to be in relation to all whites. Slaves were considered subject to white persons.
In a study of 2,588 slaves in 1860 by the economist Richard Sutch, he found that on slave-holdings with at least one woman, the average ratio of women to men exceeded 2:1. The imbalance was greater in the "selling states",[ clarification needed ] where the excess of women over men was 300 per thousand.[ clarification needed ]
Ned Sublette, co-author of The American Slave Coast, states that the reproductive worth of "breeding women" was essential to the young country's expansion not just for labor but as merchandise and collateral stemming from a shortage of silver, gold, or sound paper tender. He concludes that slaves and their descendants were used as human savings accounts with newborns serving as interest that functioned as the basis of money and credit in a market premised on the continual expansion of slavery.
Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman reject the idea that systematic slave breeding was a major economic concern in their 1974 book Time on the Cross .They argue that there is very meager evidence for the systematic breeding of slaves for sale in the market in the Upper South during the 19th century. They distinguish systematic breeding—the interference in normal sexual patterns by masters with an aim to increase fertility or encourage desirable characteristics—from pro-natalist policies, the generalized encouragement of large families through a combination of rewards, improved living and working conditions for fertile women and their children, and other policy changes by masters. They point out that the demographic evidence is subject to a number of interpretations. Fogel argues that when planters intervened in the private lives of slaves it actually had a negative impact on population growth.
Slavery in the colonial history of the United States, from 1526 to 1776, developed from complex factors, and researchers have proposed several theories to explain the development of the institution of slavery and of the slave trade. Slavery strongly correlated with the European colonies' demand for labor, especially for the labor-intensive plantation economies of the sugar colonies in the Caribbean and South America, operated by Great Britain, France, Spain, Portugal and the Dutch Republic.
Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel slavery, comprising the enslavement primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America from its founding in 1776 until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865. Slavery was established throughout European colonization in the Americas. From early colonial days, it was practiced in Britain's colonies, including the Thirteen Colonies which formed the United States. Under the law, an enslaved person was treated as property and could be bought, sold, or given away. Slavery lasted in about half of U.S. states until 1865. As an economic system, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping and convict leasing.
Robert William Fogel was an American economic historian and scientist, and winner of the 1993 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. As of his death, he was the Charles R. Walgreen Distinguished Service Professor of American Institutions and director of the Center for Population Economics (CPE) at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. He is best known as an advocate of new economic history (cliometrics) – the use of quantitative methods in history.
The Antebellum South was a period in the history of the Southern United States from the late 18th century until the start of the American Civil War in 1861. It was characterized by the rise of abolition and the gradual polarization of the country between abolitionists and supporters of slavery.
Stanley Lewis Engerman is an economist and economic historian at the University of Rochester. He received his Ph.D. in economics in 1962 from Johns Hopkins University. Engerman is known for his quantitative historical work along with Nobel Prize–winning economist Robert Fogel. His first major book, co-authored with Robert Fogel in 1974, was Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. This significant work, winner of the Bancroft Prize in American history, challenged readers to think critically about the economics of slavery. Engerman has also published over 100 articles and has authored, co-authored or edited 16 book-length studies.
The domestic slave trade, also known as the Second Middle Passage and the interregional slave trade, was the term for the domestic trade of slaves within the United States that reallocated slaves across states during the antebellum period. It was most significant in the early to mid-19th century, when historians estimate one million slaves were taken in a forced migration from the Upper South: Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and the District of Columbia, to the territories and newly admitted states of the Deep South and the West Territories: Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Texas.
Partus sequitur ventrem was a legal doctrine passed in colonial Virginia in 1662 and other English crown colonies in the Americas which defined the legal status of children born there; the doctrine mandated that all children would inherit the legal status of their mothers. As such, children of enslaved women would be born into slavery. The legal doctrine of partus sequitur ventrem was derived from Roman civil law, specifically the portions concerning slavery and personal property (chattels).
A plantation house is the main house of a plantation, often a substantial farmhouse, which often serves as a symbol for the plantation as a whole. Plantation houses in the Southern United States and in other areas are known as quite grand and expensive architectural works today, though most were more utilitarian, working farmhouses.
Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery (1974) is a book by the economists Robert Fogel and Stanley L. Engerman. Asserting that slavery was an economically viable institution that had some benefits for African Americans, the book was reprinted in 1995 at its twentieth anniversary. First published a decade after the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, the book contradicted contemporary assessments of the effects of slavery on African Americans in the American South before the Civil War. It attracted widespread attention in the media and generated heated controversy and criticism for its methodology and conclusions.
Herbert George Gutman (1928–1985) was an American professor of history at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where he wrote on slavery and labor history.
The institution of slavery in North America existed from the earliest years of the colonial history of the United States until 1865 when the Thirteenth Amendment permanently abolished slavery throughout the entire United States. It was also abolished among the sovereign Indian tribes in Indian Territory by new peace treaties which the US required after the war.
The history of slavery in Kentucky dates from the earliest permanent European settlements in the state, until the end of the Civil War. Kentucky was classified as the Upper South or a border state, and enslaved African Americans represented 24% by 1830, but declined to 19.5% by 1860 on the eve of the Civil War. The majority of slaves in Kentucky were concentrated in the cities of Louisville and Lexington, in the fertile Bluegrass Region as well the Jackson Purchase, both the largest hemp- and tobacco-producing areas in the state. In addition, many slaves lived in the Ohio River counties where they were most often used in skilled trades or as house servants. Few slaves lived in the mountainous regions of eastern and southeastern Kentucky. Those slaves that were held in eastern and southeastern Kentucky served primarily as artisans and service workers in towns.
Seasoning, or The Seasoning, was the period of adjustment that slave traders and slaveholders subjected African slaves to following their arrival in the Americas. While modern scholarship has occasionally applied this term to the brief period of acclimatization undergone by European immigrants to the Americas, it most frequently and formally referred to the process undergone by enslaved people. Slave traders used "seasoning" in this colonial context to refer to the process of adjusting the enslaved Africans to the new climate, diet, geography, and ecology of the Americas. The term applied to both the physical acclimatization of the enslaved person to the environment and that person's adjustment to a new social environment, labor regime, and language. Slave traders and owners believed that, if a person survived this critical period of environmental seasoning, they were less likely to die and the psychological element would make them more easily controlled. This process took place immediately after the arrival of enslaved people during which their mortality rates were particularly high. These "new" or "saltwater" slaves were called "outlandish" on arrival. Those who survived this process became "seasoned", and typically commanded a higher price in the market. For example, in eighteenth century Brazil, the price differential between "new" and "seasoned" slaves was about fifteen percent.
Slavery among Native Americans in the United States includes slavery by and slavery of Native Americans roughly within what is currently the United States of America.
Slavery in Virginia began with the enslavement of Native Americans, during the early days of the English Colony of Virginia and through the late eighteenth century. They primarily worked in tobacco fields. Africans were first brought to Colonial Virginia in 1619, when 20 Africans from present-day Angola arrived in Virginia on the ship The White Lion. About that time, Native Americans were also captured and enslaved.
A plantation complex in the Southern United States is the built environment that was common on agricultural plantations in the American South from the 17th into the 20th century. The complex included everything from the main residence down to the pens for livestock. Southern plantations were generally self-sufficient settlements that relied on the forced labor of enslaved people.
The treatment of enslaved people in the United States varied by time and place, but was generally brutal, especially on plantations. Whipping and rape were routine, but usually not in front of white outsiders, or even the plantation owner's family. An enslaved person could not be a witness against a white; enslaved people were sometimes required to whip other enslaved people, even family members. There were also businesses to which a slave owner could turn over the whipping. Families were often split up by the sale of one or more members, usually never to see or hear of each other again. There were some relatively enlightened slave owners—Nat Turner said his master was kind—but not on large plantations. Only a small minority of enslaved people received anything resembling decent treatment; one contemporary estimate was 10%, not without noting that the ones well treated desired freedom just as much as those poorly treated. Good treatment could vanish upon the death of an owner. As put by William T. Allan, a slaveowner's abolitionist son who could not safely return to Alabama, "cruelty was the rule, and kindness the exception".
Slavery in Cuba was a portion of the larger Atlantic Slave Trade that primarily supported Spanish plantation owners engaged in the sugarcane trade. It was practiced on the island of Cuba from the 16th century until it was abolished by Spanish royal decree on October 7, 1886.
Following Robert Cavelier de La Salle establishing the French claim to the territory and the introduction of the name Louisiana, the first settlements in the southernmost portion of Louisiana were developed at present-day Biloxi (1699), Mobile (1702), Natchitoches (1714), and New Orleans (1718). Slavery was then established by European colonists.
Native Americans were enslaved in Florida prior to the arrival of Europeans. The presence of enslaved Africans began under Spanish rule and continued under British, American and later Confederate rule. It was theoretically abolished by President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation of January 1, 1863, but this had little immediate effect in Florida, where Union armies did not arrive as they did elsewhere in the former Confederacy.