Students will examine the rapid expansion of cotton slavery across the southern United States. Maps to Key Concepts 2, 4, 6 & 10
What else should my students know?
9.A Eli Whitney’s 1793 invention of the cotton gin had a dramatic effect on the profitability of short-staple cotton. The cotton gin allowed two enslaved laborers to remove the seeds from 50 pounds of cotton in a single day. Before its invention, a single enslaved laborer could clean an average of only one pound of cotton each day.
How can I teach this?
- The University of Oregon’s website Mapping History provides a useful model comparing the growth of cotton production and the expansion of slavery between 1790 and 1860.
- The online resources for the PBS series Africans in America include a letter from Henry Tayloe to his brother. He proposes selling the people his brother enslaved in Virginia for a profit in Alabama. Although it was not written until 1835, the letter allows for a discussion of the decline of the Virginia tobacco economy and the profitability of trading enslaved persons from the Upper South to the Deep South. This practice of transporting enslaved people from the Upper South to the cotton-producing states of the Deep South was ongoing from the early Republic until the Civil War.