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Atlantic Slave Trade

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• Although there was some hope immediately after the Revolution that the ideals of independence and equality would extend to the black American population, this hope died with the invention of the cotton gin in 1793. With the gin (short for engine), raw cotton could be quickly cleaned; Suddenly cotton became a profitable crop, transforming the southern economy and changing the dynamics of slavery. The first federal census of 1790 counted 697,897 slaves; by 1810, there were 1.2 million slaves, a 70 percent increase.

Slavery spread from the seaboard to some of the new western territories and states as new cotton fields were planted, and by 1830 it thrived in more than half the continent. Within 10 years after the cotton gin was put into use, the value of the total United States crop leaped from $150,000 to more than $8 million. This success of this plantation crop made it much more difficult for slaves to purchase their freedom or obtain it through the good will of their masters. Cotton became the foundation for the developing textile industry in New England, spurring the industrial revolution which transformed America in the 19th century.

From 1790 to 1810, close to 100,000 slaves moved to the new cotton lands to the south and west. From 1810 until the Civil War, 100,000 slaves were forced westward each decade -- a half million in total. As cotton cultivation spread, slaveholders in the tobacco belt, whose crop was no longer profitable, made huge profits by selling their slaves. This domestic slave trade devastated black families. American-born slaves were torn from the plantations they had known all their lives, placed in shackles and force-marched hundreds of miles away from their loved ones.


During its first 50 years the United States transformed itself from a small republic into an expansive democracy for white Americans. The nation tripled its population, doubled in size, and extended slavery to parts of the Western frontier. For black Americans, this same period was a contradictory mix of community-building for free blacks and entrenched enslavement for those not yet emancipated.

Slavery grew stronger, as the invention of the cotton gin and a booming Southern economy fueled the push westward.

• In the United States, Southern cotton provided capital for the continuing development of the North. The cotton produced by enslaved African Americans, not only helped the South, but also enriched northern merchants. Much of the southern cotton were transhipped through the northern ports. Profits from the cotton shipping provided some of the funds for the Francis Cabot Lowell's Lowell Mills. In another example, a merchant named Anson Phelps invested his profits from cotton shipping into iron mines in Pennsylvania and metalworks in Connecticut. Much of the development of northern industry was made possible by the cotton provided by the enslaved African Americans of the South. It also fostered the market revolution.

• Cotton plantations required vast labor forces to hand-pick cotton fibers, and it was not until the 1950s that reliable harvesting machinery was introduced into the South (prior to this, cotton-harvesting machinery had been too clumsy to pick cotton without shredding the fibers)

• State and local governments also made money by taxing slavery through sales and inheritance taxes.

• Furthermore, cotton had made the South a player in the world economy. While cotton exports totaled only $5 million (seven percent of



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