Slavery's Impact On Raleigh, North Carolina

1200 words - 5 pages

Slavery’s Impact on Raleigh, North CarolinaSlavery during the 19th and 20th centuries varied greatly from region to region and even from one slave owner to the next. Although most people have at least a basic understanding of what slavery was like during this era, most are unaware of the fear and brutality that many slaves had to live and deal with on a daily basis. By hearing and reading first-hand accounts from former slaves, one is able to have a much deeper understanding of the lifestyle that a slave in a particular region had, as well as an understanding of the impact that slave’s labor had on the region. Clay Bobbit, a former slave, recounts his life growing up as a slave in Raleigh, North Carolina. Mr. Bobbit’s story, with some added research, gives a very detailed description of the life of a typical slave in the piedmont region of North Carolina in the 19th and 20th centuries.Most slaves in the piedmont region of North Carolina worked in tobacco or cotton fields (Boyken 15). In the 1860s, approximately 25-50% of the total population of Raleigh was slaves (Powell, “Encyclopedia” 45). The cotton industry was literally blooming in the late 1800s, and from 1860 to 1880, the number of bales of cotton produced in the piedmont region of North Carolina had nearly tippled, reaching almost 400 thousand bales. The amount of tobacco had increased drastically as well, and in 1880, 27 million pounds of tobacco were produced (Powell, “Four Centuries” 52). With the large amount of cotton and tobacco being produced, slave labor was seen as a necessity. Despite the piedmont regions large output of agriculture, however, very few plantations had a large amount of slaves; only one farmer out of every fifty had over twenty slaves working for them in the 1860s (52).Slaves were used to aid farmers with the cultivation of their own lands; the farmers did not rely solely on slaves to farm their cotton and tobacco. Many farmers regarded slaves as mere helpers enabling them to lead an easier lifestyle, not to necessarily do all of the planting, cultivating, and harvesting (Powell, “Four Centuries” 53). In the 1860s, North Carolina had over 70,000 farms with the average farm having over 300 acres (50). With farms this large, it was no wonder that slaves like Clay Bobbit worked countless hours with little time for breaks (“Clay Bobbit”).Mr. Bobbit’s master, “Massa Dick”, had far more slaves than the average plantation owner. Massa Dick had over one hundred slaves working for him, almost four times that of other plantations in the piedmont area (“Clay Bobbit”; Powell, “Four Centuries” 50). The living conditions on many plantations in the piedmont region were unbearable for the slaves living there. Many slaves would be whipped and beaten with whatever the plantation owners had lying around, in Mr. Bobbit’s case, a cowhide was the usual weapon of choice. Often times,...

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