By the s and into the s, small ships could successfully navigate their way to New Orleans from as far north as Memphis and even St. Louis, if they so dared. But the problem was getting back. Most often, traders and sailors scuttled their boats on landing in New Orleans, selling the wood for a quick profit or a journey home on a wagon or caravan.
In January , a ton ship called the New Orleans arrived at its namesake city from the distant internal port of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This was the first steamboat to navigate the internal waterways of the North American continent from one end to the other and remain capable of returning home.
The technology was far from perfect—the New Orleans sank two years later after hitting a submerged sandbar covered in driftwood—but its successful trial promised a bright, new future for river-based travel. And that future was, indeed, bright.
Just five years after the New Orleans arrived in its city, 17 steamboats ran regular upriver lines. By the mids, more than steamboats did the same.
In , the port of New Orleans received and unloaded 3, steamboats, all focused entirely on internal trade. Only now, in the s and s, could those fields, plantations, and farms simply load their products onto a boat and wait for the profit, credit, or supplies to return from downriver.
Gordon, pictured here, endured terrible brutality from his master before escaping to Union Army lines in He would become a soldier and help fight to end the violent system that produced the horrendous scars on his back. Matthew Brady, Gordon, The explosion of steam power changed the face of the South, and indeed the nation as a whole. Everything that could be steam-powered was steam-powered, sometimes with mixed results.
Cotton gins, wagons, grinders, looms, and baths, among countless others, all fell under the net of this new technology. Quite the opposite; they had become the means by which commerce flowed, the roads of a modernizing society and region. And most importantly, the ability to use internal waterways connected the rural interior to increasingly urban ports, the sources of raw materials—cotton, tobacco, wheat, and so on—to an eager global market.
Coastal ports like New Orleans, Charleston, Norfolk, and even Richmond became targets of steamboats and coastal carriers. Merchants, traders, skilled laborers, and foreign speculators and agents flooded the towns. In fact, the South experienced a a greater rate of urbanization between and than the seemingly more industrial, urban-based North. Urbanization of the South simply looked different from that seen in the North and in Europe.
Where most northern and some European cities most notably London, Liverpool, Manchester, and Paris developed along the lines of industry, creating public spaces to boost the morale of wage laborers in factories, on the docks, and in storehouses, southern cities developed within the cyclical logic of sustaining the trade in cotton that justified and paid for the maintenance of an enslaved labor force.
The growth of southern cities, then, allowed slavery to flourish and brought the South into a more modern world. Between and , quite a few southern towns experienced dramatic population growth, which paralleled the increase in cotton production and international trade to and from the South.
The 27, people New Orleans claimed in expanded to more than , by In fact, in New Orleans, the population nearly quadrupled from to as the Cotton Revolution hit full stride. Louis experienced the largest increase of any city in the nation, expanding from a frontier town of 10, to a booming Mississippi River metropolis of , And that relationship connected the region to a global market and community. As southern cities grew, they became more cosmopolitan, attracting types of people either unsuited for or uninterested in rural life.
These people—merchants, skilled laborers, traders, sellers of all kinds and colors—brought rural goods to a market desperate for raw materials. Everyone, it seemed, had a place in the cotton trade. Agents, many of them transients from the North, and in some cases Europe, represented the interests of planters and cotton farmers in the cities, making connections with traders who in turn made deals with manufactories in the Northeast, Liverpool, and Paris.
Among the more important aspects of southern urbanization was the development of a middle class in the urban centers, something that never fully developed in the more rural areas. In a very general sense, the rural South fell under a two-class system in which a landowning elite controlled the politics and most of the capital, and a working poor survived on subsistence farming or basic, unskilled labor funded by the elite.
The development of large urban centers founded on trade, and flush with transient populations of sailors, merchants, and travelers, gave rise to a large, highly developed middle class in the South. Predicated on the idea of separation from those above and below them, middle-class men and women in the South thrived in the active, feverish rush of port city life.
Skilled craftsmen, merchants, traders, speculators, and store owners made up the southern middle class. Fashion trends no longer required an honest function—such as a broad-brimmed hat to protect one from the sun, knee-high boots for horse riding, and linen shirts and trousers to fight the heat of an unrelenting sun.
But in many cases these benevolent societies simply served as a way to keep other people out of middle-class circles, sustaining both wealth and social prestige within an insular, well-regulated community. The city bred exclusivity. That was part of the rush, part of fever of the time. And they welcomed the world with open checkbooks and open arms. Southern Cultures To understand the global and economic functions of the South, we also must understand the people who made the whole thing work.
The South, more than perhaps any other region in the United States, had a great diversity of cultures and situations. The South still relied on the existence of slavery; and as a result, it was home to nearly 4 million enslaved people by , amounting to more than 45 percent of the entire Southern population. They created kinship and family networks, systems of often illicit trade, linguistic codes, religious congregations, and even benevolent and social aid organizations—all within the grip of slavery, a system dedicated to extraction rather than development, work and production rather than community and emotion.
The concept of family, more than anything else, played a crucial role in the daily lives of slaves. Family and kinship networks, and the benefits they carried, represented an institution through which slaves could piece together a sense of community, a sense of feeling and dedication, separate from the forced system of production that defined their daily lives.
The creation of family units, distant relations, and communal traditions allowed slaves to maintain religious beliefs, ancient ancestral traditions, and even names passed down from generation to generation in a way that challenged enslavement. Ideas passed between relatives on different plantations, names given to children in honor of the deceased, and basic forms of love and devotion created a sense of individuality, an identity that assuaged the loneliness and desperation of enslaved life.
Family defined how each plantation, each community, functioned, grew, and labored. Nothing under slavery lasted long, at least not in the same form. Slave families and networks were no exceptions to this rule. African-born slaves during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries engaged in marriages—sometimes polygamous—with those of the same ethnic groups whenever possible.
This, most importantly, allowed for the maintenance of cultural traditions, such as language, religion, name practices, and even the rare practice of bodily scaring. In some parts of the South, such as Louisiana and coastal South Carolina, ethnic homogeneity thrived, and as a result, traditions and networks survived relatively unchanged for decades.
As the number of slaves arriving in the United States increased, and generations of American-born slaves overtook the original African-born populations, the practice of marriage, especially among members of the same ethnic group, or even simply the same plantation, became vital to the continuation of aging traditions. Marriage served as the single most important aspect of cultural and identity formation, as it connected slaves to their own pasts, and gave some sense of protection for the future.
Some were relatively well off, like this femme de couleur libre who posed with her mixed-race child in front of her New Orleans home, maintaining a middling position between free whites and unfree blacks. Free woman of color with quadroon daughter; late 18th century collage painting, New Orleans. Wikimedia Many slave marriages endured for many years.
But the threat of disruption, often through sale, always loomed. But this was not the only threat. Planters, and slaveowners of all shapes and sizes, recognized that marriage was, in the most basic and tragic sense, a privilege granted and defined by them for their slaves. Threats to family networks, marriages, and household stability did not stop with the death of a master. A slave couple could live their entire lives together, even having been born, raised, and married on the slave plantation, and, following the death of their master, find themselves at opposite sides of the known world.
It only took a single relative, executor, creditor, or friend of the deceased to make a claim against the estate to cause the sale and dispersal of an entire slave community.
Enslaved women were particularly vulnerable to the shifts of fate attached to slavery. In many cases, female slaves did the same work as men, spending the day—from sun up to sun down—in the fields picking and bundling cotton. In some rare cases, especially among the larger plantations, planters tended to use women as house servants more than men, but this was not universal. Sexual violence, unwanted pregnancies, and constant childrearing while continuing to work the fields all made life as a female slave more prone to disruption and uncertainty.
Many enslaved women had no choice concerning love, sex, and motherhood. On plantations, small farms, and even in cities, rape was ever-present. Like the splitting of families, slaveowners used sexual violence as a form of terrorism, a way to promote increased production, obedience, and power relations. And this was not restricted only to unmarried women. In numerous contemporary accounts, particularly violent slaveowners forced men to witness the rape of their wives, daughters, and relatives, often as punishment, but occasionally as a sadistic expression of power and dominance.
Racist pseudo-scientists claimed that whites could not physically rape Africans or African Americans, as the sexual organs of each were not compatible in that way. State law, in some cases, supported this view, claiming that rape could only occur between either two white people or a black man and a white woman. All other cases fell under a silent acceptance. Pregnancies that resulted from rape did not always lead to a lighter workload for the mother.
And if a slave acted out against a rapist, whether that be her master, mistress, or any other white attacker, her actions were seen as crimes rather than desperate acts of survival. For example, a year-old slave named Celia fell victim to repeated rape by her master in Callaway County, Missouri. Between and , Robert Newsom raped Celia hundreds of times, producing two children and several miscarriages. Sick and desperate in the fall of , Celia took a club and struck her master in the head, killing him.
On November 16, , after a trial of ten days, Celia, the year-old rape victim and slave, was hanged for her crimes against her master. Gray was the enslaved housekeeper to Robert E. National Park Service. Gender inequality did not always fall along the same lines as racial inequality. Southern society, especially in the age of cotton, deferred to white men, under whom laws, social norms, and cultural practices were written, dictated, and maintained.
White and free women of color lived in a society dominated, in nearly every aspect, by men. Denied voting rights, women, of all statuses and colors, had no direct representation in the creation and discussion of law. Husbands, it was said, represented their wives, as the public sphere was too violent, heated, and high-minded for women. Society expected women to represent the foundations of the republic, gaining respectability through their work at home, in support of their husbands and children, away from the rough and boisterous realm of masculinity.
In many cases, too, law did not protect women the same way it protected men. Slavery existed to dominate, yet slaves formed bonds, maintained traditions, and crafted new culture. They fell in love, had children, and protected one another using the privileges granted them by their captors, and the basic intellect allowed all human beings.
They were resourceful, brilliant, and vibrant, and they created freedom where freedom seemingly could not exist. And within those communities, resilience and dedication often led to cultural sustenance. But religion, honor, and pride transcended material goods, especially among those who could not express themselves that way.
The issue of emigration elicited disparate reactions from African Americans. Tens of thousands left the United States for Liberia, a map of which is shown here, to pursue greater freedoms and prosperity.
Most emigrants did not experience such success, but Liberia continued to attract black settlers for decades. Library of Congress. Religion and Honor in the Slave South Economic growth, violence, and exploitation coexisted and mutually reinforced evangelical Christianity in the South.
Led by Methodists, Baptists, and to a lesser degree, Presbyterians, this intense period of religious regeneration swept the along southern backcountry. By the outbreak of the Civil War, the vast majority of southerners who affiliated with a religious denomination belonged to either the Baptist or Methodist faith.
Southern ministers contended that God himself had selected Africans for bondage but also considered the evangelization of slaves to be one of their greatest callings. Some black and white southerners forged positive and rewarding biracial connections; however, more often black and white southerners described strained or superficial religious relationships. No matter how fatigued and weary he may be If it falls short of weight Only when the slaves finally finished working for their master could they return to their own crude cabins to tend to their own family needs.
Slave food was adequate but monotonous, consisting mainly of corn bread, salt pork or bacon , and molasses. The master also usually provided a winter and a summer set of clothes, often the cast-offs of white people. Sickness was common and the infant death rate doubled that of white babies. They were forbidden to learn how to read and write. They could be searched at any time. They could not buy or sell things without a permit.
They could not own livestock. They were subject to a curfew every night. Marriage among slaves had no legal standing and always required the approval of the master. Generally, slaves could marry others living at their plantation, or at neighboring ones. Solomon Northup discovered the following rules during his enslavement in Louisiana: Either party can have as many husbands or wives as the owner will permit, and either is at liberty to discard the other at pleasure.
The law in relation to divorce, or to bigamy, and so forth, is not applicable to property, of course. If the wife does not belong on the same plantation with the husband, the latter is permitted to visit her on Saturday nights, if the distance is not too far. She was terribly lacerated — I may say, without exaggeration, literally flayed. The lash was wet with blood Some like Nat Turner rebelled.
In , he led a slave revolt that left nearly 60 white persons dead in Virginia. Such insurrections were relatively rare in the South. White people outnumbered slaves in most places, possessed firearms, and could call on the power of the government to suppress rebellions. Nevertheless, slaves everywhere found other ways to resist their bondage. The most effective way that a slave could retaliate against an owner was to run away.
It is estimated that 60, black people fled slavery before the Civil War. Solomon Northup attempted to run away but failed. Then, in , a white carpenter with abolitionist sentiments met Northup and learned about his kidnapping.
The carpenter wrote several letters to New York state officials on behalf of Northup. In response, the governor of New York sent an agent carrying documents proving that Northup was a free black man.
The plantation owners had no choice but to turn to slaves because of the lack of colonial workers and indentured servants. Slaves increased the productivity and profits generated by the huge plantations in the South because they had advantages over indentured servants. The war was caused by many disputes such as sectionalism, expansion of slavery, and abolitionist. Although there were many issues some were consider to be much more influential than the others.
These include sectionalism and the expansion of slavery. The North and South could not seem to stop arguing over the expansion of slavery to the west as well as their many differences in other areas. This has lead to lots of tension and fighting. When people were first settling here they had slaves.O my great Lord keep me from sinking down. When we celebrate American freedom, we must also be mindful of the long and painful struggle to share in those freedoms that faced and continue to face generations of African Americans. To understand the present, we must look to the past. A painting depicts George Washington and workers on his plantation.
Before cotton, the South had few major ports, almost none of which actively maintained international trade routes or even domestic supply routes.
In this excerpt Jacobs explains her experience struggling with sexual assault from her master. If two men could not settle a dispute through the arbitration of their friends, they would exchange pistol shots to prove their equal honor status.
They are content and are actually better off than free white laborers working in northern factories. Coastal ports like New Orleans, Charleston, Norfolk, and even Richmond became targets of steamboats and coastal carriers. When the bounty hunter sold him into slavery, Northup lost his family, his home, his freedom, and even his name.
By the end of the s, Petit Gulf cotton had been perfected, distributed, and planted throughout the region. They viewed the exploitation as a direct one while at the same time; they felt used to help the white people live a comfortable life. In Egyptian society you would keep your civil rights even though you were a slave. The master also usually provided a winter and a summer set of clothes, often the cast-offs of white people. Southern society, especially in the age of cotton, deferred to white men, under whom laws, social norms, and cultural practices were written, dictated, and maintained. Carolina during their initial or charter phases?
It required massive, temporary fields, large numbers of slaves and laborers, and constant movement. Slaves worked at all sorts of jobs throughout the slaveholding South, but the majority were field hands on relatively large plantations. Carolina during their initial or charter phases? Although the cotton market was large and profitable, it was also fickle, risky, and cost intensive. It is estimated that 60, black people fled slavery before the Civil War. It is in my belief that the Bible did not condone slavery in the way that slave owners upheld slavery.