Plantations in the American South

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A cotton plantation on the Mississippi, 1884 lithograph Cotton plantation on the Mississippi, 1884 (cropped).jpg
A cotton plantation on the Mississippi, 1884 lithograph

Plantations are an important aspect of the history of the American South, particularly the antebellum (pre-American Civil War) era. The mild subtropical climate, plentiful rainfall, and fertile soils of the southeastern United States allowed the flourishing of large plantations, where large numbers of workers, usually Africans held captive for slave labor, were required for agricultural production.

Plantation long artificially established forest, farm or estate, where crops are grown for sale

A plantation is the large-scale estate meant for farming that specializes in cash crops. The crops that are grown include cotton, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, sisal, oil seeds, oil palms, rubber trees, and fruits. Protectionist policies and natural comparative advantage have sometimes contributed to determining where plantations were located.

History of the Southern United States

The history of the Southern United States reaches back hundreds of years and includes the Mississippian people, well known for their mound building. European history in the region began in the very earliest days of the exploration and colonization of North America. Spain, France, and England eventually explored and claimed parts of what is now the Southern United States, and the cultural influences of each can still be seen in the region today. In the centuries since, the history of the Southern United States has recorded a large number of important events, including the American Revolution, the American Civil War, the ending of slavery, and the American Civil Rights Movement.

Southern United States Cultural region of the United States

The southern United States, also known as the American South, Dixie, Dixieland, or simply the South, is a region of the United States of America. It is located between the Atlantic Ocean and the western United States, with the midwestern United States and northeastern United States to its north and the Gulf of Mexico and Mexico to its south.

Contents

Personnel

Plantation owner

Three planters, after 1845, The Metropolitan Museum of Art -Three Planters- MET DP338158.jpg
Three planters, after 1845, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin before the War by Confederate chaplain and planter James Battle Avirett The Old Plantation title page.png
The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin before the War by Confederate chaplain and planter James Battle Avirett

An individual who owned a plantation was known as a planter. Historians of the antebellum South have generally defined "planter" most precisely as a person owning property (real estate) and 20 or more slaves. [1] The wealthiest planters, such as the Virginia elite with plantations near the James River, owned more land and slaves than other farmers. Tobacco was the major cash crop in the Upper South (in the original Chesapeake Bay Colonies of Virginia and Maryland, and in parts of the Carolinas).

Slavery in the United States Form of slave labor which existed as a legal institution from the early years of the United States

Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel enslavement, primarily of Africans and African Americans, that existed in the United States of America in the 18th and 19th centuries. Slavery had been practiced in British America from early colonial days, and was legal in all Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It lasted in about half the states until 1865, when it was prohibited nationally by the Thirteenth Amendment. As an economic system, slavery was largely replaced by sharecropping.

First Families of Virginia

First Families of Virginia (FFV) were those families in Colonial Virginia who were socially prominent and wealthy, but not necessarily the earliest settlers. They descended from English colonists who primarily settled at Jamestown, Williamsburg, The Northern Neck and along the James River and other navigable waters in Virginia during the 17th century. These elite families generally married within their social class for many generations and, as a result, most surnames of First Families date to the colonial period.

James River river in Virginia, United States

The James River is a river in the U.S. state of Virginia that begins in the Appalachian Mountains and flows 348 miles (560 km) to Chesapeake Bay. The river length extends to 444 miles (715 km) if one includes the Jackson River, the longer of its two source tributaries. It is the longest river in Virginia and the 12th longest river in the United States that remains entirely within a single state. Jamestown and Williamsburg, Virginia’s first colonial capitals, and Richmond, Virginia's current capital, lie on the James River.

The later development of cotton and sugar cultivation in the Deep South in the early 18th century led to the establishment of large plantations which had hundreds of slaves. The great majority of Southern farmers owned no slaves or owned fewer than five slaves. Slaves were much more expensive than land.

Cotton Plant fiber from the genus Gossypium

Cotton is a soft, fluffy staple fiber that grows in a boll, or protective case, around the seeds of the cotton plants of the genus Gossypium in the mallow family Malvaceae. The fiber is almost pure cellulose. Under natural conditions, the cotton bolls will increase the dispersal of the seeds.

Deep South cultural and geographic subregion in the Southern United States

The Deep South is a cultural and geographic subregion in the Southern United States. Historically, it was differentiated as those states most dependent on plantations and slave societies during the pre-Civil War period. The Deep South is commonly referred to as the Cotton States, given that the production of cotton was a primary cash crop.

In the "Black Belt" counties of Alabama and Mississippi, the terms "planter" and "farmer" were often synonymous; [2] a "planter" was generally a farmer who owned many slaves. While most Southerners were not slave-owners, and while the majority of slaveholders held ten or fewer slaves, planters were those who held a significant number of slaves, mostly as agricultural labor. Planters are often spoken of as belonging to the planter elite or to the planter aristocracy in the antebellum South.

Black Belt (U.S. region) Region of the Southeastern United States

The Black Belt is a region of the Southern United States. The term originally described the prairies and dark fertile soil of central Alabama and northeast Mississippi. Because this area in the 19th century was historically developed for cotton plantations based on enslaved African American labor, the term became associated with these conditions. It was generally applied to a much larger agricultural region in the Southern US characterized by a history of cotton plantation agriculture in the 19th century and a high percentage of African Americans outside metropolitan areas. The enslaved peoples were freed after the American Civil War, and many continued to work in agriculture afterward. Their descendants make up much of the African-American population of the United States.

Alabama State of the United States of America

Alabama is a state in the southeastern region of the United States. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Georgia to the east, Florida and the Gulf of Mexico to the south, and Mississippi to the west. Alabama is the 30th largest by area and the 24th-most populous of the U.S. states. With a total of 1,500 miles (2,400 km) of inland waterways, Alabama has among the most of any state.

Mississippi State of the United States of America

Mississippi is a state in the Deep South region of the southeastern United States. Mississippi is the 32nd most extensive and 34th most populous of the 50 U.S. states. It is bordered by Tennessee to the north, Alabama to the east, the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana to the south, and Arkansas and Louisiana to the west. The state's western boundary is largely defined by the Mississippi River. Jackson, with a population of approximately 167,000 people, is both the state's capital and largest city.

The historians Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman define large planters as those owning over 50 slaves, and medium planters as those owning between 16 and 50 slaves. [3] Historian David Williams, in A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom, suggests that the minimum requirement for planter status was twenty negroes, especially since a southern planter could exempt Confederate duty for one white male per twenty slaves owned. [4] In his study of Black Belt counties in Alabama, Jonathan Weiner defines planters by ownership of real property, rather than of slaves. A planter, for Weiner, owned at least $10,000 worth of real estate in 1850 and $32,000 worth in 1860, equivalent to about the top 8 percent of landowners. [5] In his study of southwest Georgia, Lee Formwalt defines planters in terms of size of land holdings rather than in terms of numbers of slaves. Formwalt's planters are in the top 4.5 percent of landowners, translating into real estate worth six thousand dollars or more in 1850, 24,000 dollars or more in 1860, and eleven thousand dollars or more in 1870. [6] In his study of Harrison County, Texas, Randolph B. Campbell classifies large planters as owners of 20 slaves, and small planters as owners of between 10 and 19 slaves. [7] In Chicot and Phillips Counties, Arkansas, Carl H. Moneyhon defines large planters as owners of twenty or more slaves, and of six hundred or more acres. [8]

Robert Fogel American economist, historian

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 Booth School of Business. He is best known as an advocate of new economic history (cliometrics) – the use of quantitative methods in history.

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.

Jonathan Weiner is a writer of non-fiction books on his biology observations, in particular evolution in the Galápagos Islands, genetics, and the environment.

Many nostalgic memoirs about plantation life were published in the post-bellum South. [9] For example, James Battle Avirett, who grew up on the Avirett-Stephens Plantation in Onslow County, North Carolina and served as an Episcopal chaplain in the Confederate States Army, published The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin before the War in 1901. [9] Such memoirs often included descriptions of Christmas as the epitome of anti-modern order exemplified by the "great house" and extended family. [10]

James Battle Avirett

James Battle Avirett was an American Confederate chaplain and author. He was the first chaplain commissioned to serve in the Confederate States Army in 1861. His The Old Plantation: How We Lived in Great House and Cabin before the War, published in 1901 was a nostalgic description of life on a plantation in the Antebellum South. By the time of his death, he was "the last surviving Confederate chaplain."

Onslow County, North Carolina County in the United States

Onslow County is a county located in the U.S. state of North Carolina. As of the 2010 census, the population was 177,772. Its county seat is Jacksonville. The county was created in 1734 as Onslow Precinct and gained county status in 1739.

Confederate States Army Army of the Confederate States

The Confederate States Army (C.S.A.) was the military land force of the Confederate States of America (Confederacy) during the American Civil War (1861–1865), fighting against the United States forces. On February 28, 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress established a provisional volunteer army and gave control over military operations and authority for mustering state forces and volunteers to the newly chosen Confederate president, Jefferson Davis. Davis was a graduate of the U.S. Military Academy, and colonel of a volunteer regiment during the Mexican–American War. He had also been a United States Senator from Mississippi and U.S. Secretary of War under President Franklin Pierce. On March 1, 1861, on behalf of the Confederate government, Davis assumed control of the military situation at Charleston, South Carolina, where South Carolina state militia besieged Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, held by a small U.S. Army garrison. By March 1861, the Provisional Confederate Congress expanded the provisional forces and established a more permanent Confederate States Army.

Overseer

On larger plantations an overseer represented the planter in matters of daily management. Usually portrayed as uncouth, ill-educated and low-class, he had the difficult and often despised task of middleman and the often contradictory goals of fostering both productivity and the enslaved work-force. [11]

Slaves

Plantation crops

Crops cultivated on antebellum plantations included cotton, tobacco, sugar, indigo, rice, and to a lesser extent okra, yam, sweet potato, peanuts, and watermelon. By the late 18th century, most planters in the Upper South had switched from exclusive tobacco cultivation to mixed-crop production.

In the Lowcountry of South Carolina, even before the American Revolution, planters in South Carolina typically owned hundreds of slaves. (In towns and cities, families held slaves to work as household servants.) The 19th-century development of the Deep South for cotton cultivation depended on large tracts of land with much more acreage than was typical of the Chesapeake Bay area, and for labor, planters held dozens, or sometimes hundreds, of slaves.

Plantation architecture and landscape

Antebellum architecture can be seen in many extant "plantation houses", the large residences of planters and their families. Over time in each region of the plantation south a regional architecture emerged inspired by those who settled the area. Most early plantation architecture was constructed to mitigate the hot subtropical climate and provide natural cooling.

Some of earliest plantation architecture occurred in southern Louisiana by the French. Using styles and building concepts they had learned in the Caribbean, the French created many of the grand plantation homes around New Orleans. French Creole architecture began around 1699, and lasted well into the 1800s. In the Lowcountry of South Carolina and Georgia, the Dogtrot style house was built with a large center breezeway running through the house to mitigate the subtropical heat. The wealthiest planters in colonial Virginia constructed their manor houses in the Georgian style, e.g. the mansion of Shirley Plantation. In the 19th century, Greek Revival architecture also became popular on some of the plantation homes of the deep south.

Common plants and trees incorporated in the landscape of Southern plantation manors included Southern live oak and Southern magnolia. Both of these large trees are native to the Southern United States and were classic symbols of the old south. Southern live oaks, classically draped in Spanish moss, were planted along long paths or walkways leading to the plantation to create a grand, imposing, and majestic theme. Plantation landscapes were very well maintained and trimmed, usually, the landscape work was managed by the planter, with assistance from slaves or workers. Planters themselves also usually maintained a small flower or vegetable garden. Cash crops were not grown in these small garden plots, but rather garden plants and vegetables for enjoyment.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Slavery in the colonial area which later became the United States (1600–1776) 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 Europe's American colonies' need for labor, especially for the labor-intensive plantation economies of the sugar colonies in the Caribbean, operated by Great Britain, France, Spain, and the Dutch Republic.

Sharecropping form of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced on their portion of land

Sharecropping is a form of agriculture in which a landowner allows a tenant to use the land in return for a share of the crops produced on their portion of land. Sharecropping has a long history and there are a wide range of different situations and types of agreements that have used a form of the system. Some are governed by tradition, and others by law. Legal contract systems such as the Italian mezzadria, the French métayage, the Spanish mediero, the Slavic połowcy,издoльщина or the Islamic system of muqasat, occur widely.

Old South American South that was part of the British colonies

Geographically, the Old South is a subregion farming country of the American South, differentiated from the Deep South by being limited to those Southern laws, states represented among the original thirteen British colonies which Form the new United States of America in 1776. Culturally, "Old South" is used to describe the rural, agriculturally-based, antebellum economy and society in the Southern United States, in contrast to the post-war New South.

Black Codes (United States)

The Black Codes were laws passed by Southern states in 1865 and 1866 in the United States after the American Civil War with the intent and the effect of restricting African Americans' freedom, and of compelling them to work in a labor economy based on low wages or debt. Black Codes were part of a larger pattern of Southern whites, who were trying to suppress the new freedom of emancipated African-American slaves, the freedmen. Black codes were essentially replacements for slave codes in those states. Before the war in states that prohibited slavery, some Black Codes were also enacted. Northern states such as Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York enacted Black Codes to discourage free blacks from residing in those states and denying them equal rights, including the right to vote, the right to public education, and the right to equal treatment under the law. Some of these northern black codes were repealed around the same time that the Civil War ended and slavery was abolished.

Free Negro non-slave black in pre-emancipation USA

In United States history, a free Negro or free black was the legal status, in the geographic area of the United States, of blacks who were not slaves.

The Antebellum era 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, marked by the economic growth of the South.

Ulrich Bonnell Phillips was an American historian who largely defined the field of the social and economic history of the antebellum American South and slavery. Phillips concentrated on the large plantations that dominated the Southern economy, and he did not investigate the numerous small farmers who held few slaves. He concluded that plantation slavery produced great wealth, but was a dead end, economically, that left the South bypassed by the industrial revolution underway in the North.

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.

The plantations of Leon County were numerous and vast. Leon County, in the U.S. state of Florida, was a true cotton kingdom. From the 1820s through 1850s Leon County attracted cotton planters from Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, North, South Carolina, plus other states and abroad to its fertile red clay soils and long growing season.

Plain Folk of the Old South is a 1949 book by Vanderbilt University historian Frank Lawrence Owsley, one of the Southern Agrarians. In it he used statistical data to analyze the makeup of Southern society, contending that yeoman farmers made up a larger middle class than was generally thought.

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<i>The Slave Community</i> book by John Wesley Blassingame

The Slave Community: Plantation Life in the Antebellum South is a book written by American historian John W. Blassingame. Published in 1972, it is one of the first historical studies of slavery in the United States to be presented from the perspective of the enslaved. The Slave Community contradicted those historians who had interpreted history to suggest that African American slaves were docile and submissive "Sambos" who enjoyed the benefits of a paternalistic master-slave relationship on southern plantations. Using psychology, Blassingame analyzes fugitive slave narratives published in the 19th century to conclude that an independent culture developed among the enslaved and that there were a variety of personality types exhibited by slaves.

Slave breeding in the United States Former prevalent economic practice in the US, especially after import of slaves was made illegal

Slaves being bred in the United States includes any practice of slave ownership that aimed to systematically influence the reproduction of slaves in order to increase the wealth of slaveholders. Slave breeding included coerced sexual relations between male and female slaves, promoting pregnancies of slaves, and favoring female slaves who could produce a relatively large number of children. The purpose of slave breeding was to acquire new slaves without incurring the cost of purchase, and to fill labor shortages caused by the termination of the Atlantic slave trade.

Antebellum architecture

Antebellum architecture is the neoclassical architectural style characteristic of the 19th-century Southern United States, especially the Deep South, from after the birth of the United States with the American Revolution, to the start of the American Civil War. antebellum architecture is especially characterized by Georgian, Neo-classical, and Greek Revival style plantation homes and mansions.

Plantation complexes in the Southern United States

Plantation complexes in the Southern United States refers to 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. A plantation originally denoted a settlement in which settlers were "planted" to establish a colonial base. Southern plantations were generally self-sufficient settlements that relied on the forced labor of slaves, similar to the way that a medieval manorial estate relied upon the forced labor of serfs.

Stephen Duncan American planter

Stephen Duncan became a major planter and banker in Mississippi in the antebellum years, migrating there from his home state of Pennsylvania after getting a medical degree. He became the wealthiest cotton planter in the South prior to the American Civil War, and also invested in railroads and Midwest lands. He owned thousands of acres of land and more than 1,000 slaves in the 1850s, cultivating both cotton and sugar cane as commodity crops.

<i>Cotton Plantation Record and Account Book</i> book by Thomas Affleck

The Cotton Plantation Record and Account Book is a best-selling and pioneering guide to farm accounting in the antebellum cotton-producing regions of the United States. It was first published in 1847 or 1848 by Thomas Affleck (1812-1868), a Scottish immigrant and owner of the Glenblythe Plantation in Gay Hill, Washington County, Texas. The book contains a detailed system, including blank tables to be filled in, that allowed plantation owners to track the efficiency of their production. It also includes essays on various aspects of plantation management, such as the proper care and discipline of slaves.

Isaac H. Hilliard (1811-1868) was an American planter and cotton factor in the Antebellum South. He was an advocate of the Confederate States of America. During the American Civil War of 1861-1865, he moved his family slaves to Texas and later Louisiana. In the postbellum years, he was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and liquidated his cotton-factoring business. His Arkansas plantation was inherited by his sons.

Planter class

The planter class, known alternatively in the United States as the Southern aristocracy, was a socio-economic caste of Pan-American society that dominated seventeenth- and eighteenth-century agricultural markets through the forced labor of enslaved Africans. The Atlantic slave trade permitted planters access to inexpensive labor for the planting and harvesting of crops such as tobacco, cotton, indigo, coffee, tea, cocoa, sugar cane, sisal, oil seeds, oil palms,hemp, rubber trees, and fruits.

References

  1. Peter Kolchin, American Slavery 1619–1877, New York: Hill and Wang, 1993, xiii
  2. Oakes, Ruling Race, 52.
  3. Fogel, Robert William; Engerman, Stanley L. (1974). Time on the Cross: The Economics of American Negro Slavery. Boston: Little, Brown. OCLC   311437227.
  4. David Williams, "A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom", New York: The New Press, 2005.
  5. Wiener, Jonathan M. (Autumn 1976). "Planter Persistence and Social Change: Alabama, 1850–1870". Journal of Interdisciplinary History . 7 (2): 235–60. JSTOR   202735.
  6. Formwalt, Lee W. (October 1981). "Antebellum Planter Persistence: Southwest Georgia—A Case Study". Plantation Society in the Americas. 1 (3): 410–29. ISSN   0192-5059. OCLC   571605035.
  7. Campbell, Randolph B (May 1982). "Population Persistence and Social Change in Nineteenth-Century Texas: Harrison County, 1850–1880". Journal of Southern History . 48 (2): 185–204. JSTOR   2207106.
  8. Moneyhon, Carl H. (1992). "The Impact of the Civil War in Arkansas: The Mississippi River Plantation Counties". Arkansas Historical Quarterly . 51 (2): 105–18. JSTOR   40025847.
  9. 1 2 Anderson, David (February 2005). "Down Memory Lane: Nostalgia for the Old South in Post-Civil War Plantation Reminiscences". The Journal of Southern History. 71 (1): 105–136. JSTOR   27648653.
  10. Anderson, David J. (Fall 2014). "Nostalgia for Christmas in Postbellum Plantation Reminiscences". Southern Studies: an Interdisciplinary Journal of the South. 21 (2): 39–73.
  11. Richter:, William L. (August 20, 2009). "Overseers". The A to Z of the Old South. The A to Z Guide Series. 51. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press (published 2009). p. 258. ISBN   9780810870000 . Retrieved November 29, 2016. On larger plantations, the planter's direct representative in day-to-day management of the crops, care of the land, livestock, farm implements, and slaves was the white overseer. It was his job to work the labor force to produce a profitable crop. He was an indispensable cog in the plantation machinery. [...] The overseer has usually been portrayed as an uncouth, uneducated character of low class whose main purpose was to harass the slaves and get in the way of the planter's progressive goals of production. More than that, the overseer had a position between master and slave in which it was hard to win. Directing slave labor was looked down upon by a large number of people, North and South. He was faced with planter demands that were at times unreasonable. He was forbidden to fraternize with the slaves. He had no chance of advancement unless he left the profession. He was bombarded with incessant complaints from masters, who did not appreciate the task he faced, and slaves, who sought to play off master and overseer against each other to avoid work and gain privileges. [...] The very nature of the job was difficult. The overseer had to care for the slaves and gain the largest crop possible. These were often contradictory goals.

Further reading

Primary sources