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The Cotton Gin And Slavery Essay

1316 words - 6 pages

The Cotton Gin was an invention that allowed the mass production of cotton. Cotton was previously a very difficult crop to profit from, because of the long hours required to separate cotton seeds from the actual cotton fibers. This all changed when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1793, a machine that sped up the process, thereby making cotton farming a profitable industry for the Southern States. With large areas of prime land ready for crops the Southern states bought and transported slaves in record numbers in order to work on their cotton farms. Although there are no definitive statistics approximately 1,000,000 slaves were moved west from the 'old Southern states' to the new ones; i.e. Maryland, Virginia and the Carolinas to Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama. The new ease of cotton ginning coupled with the high demand for cotton in the textile industry gave rise to the need for a workforce to harvest the cotton. The farmers turned to a readily available labor force they didn't have to pay: slaves.
Slaves being transported to the South were usually ripped from their families and the surroundings they were familiar and comfortable with. These slaves then faced their new life at the plantation, a very different environment from what they were used to. They faced harder work, such as clearing trees and planting crops, than they had back in the ‘old Southern states’. The great demand for slaves on the plantations produced two very distinct types of slaves, rural and urban. Rural slaves, as you might have guessed worked on the plantations usually from dawn till dusk, driven by their overseer. Whereas urban slavery resulted from the lack of white laborers in the mining and lumber industries, because so many whites defected to the cotton industry in hopes of making a larger profit. As a result there was an increased demand for slaves in mills and in ships, so slaves that had learned specialized skills in the plantations, were in high demand in Southern cities. Slave owners hired out their slaves to work wherever their skills were required.
This means that the owners left their slaves unsupervised all day, unlike the plantations where they were always under his watchful eye. Many of the slaves who worked in the cities cited them as incredibly different from working on the plantation. In the city a slave was almost a free man compared to the plantations, he got better food, clothes and privileges. Also the acts of cruelty habitually preformed on the plantations, were very uncommon in the city. Another interesting point is the social system of the white South. While small farmers lived relatively simply, working on their own farms, and relying on their neighbors; the large plantation owners who had accumulated enough wealth formed an aristocratic society. The plantation owners were, of course at the top while they employed free southerners without land for specific jobs, usually as plantation overseers.
Along with the increase of slavery in the...

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