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History Vault

Slavery in Antebellum Southern Industries

Slavery in Antebellum Southern Industries  (Module 45)

Industry never rivaled agriculture as an employer of slave labor in the Old South, but because of the kinds of records industrial enterprises kept, and because of the survival of superb collections in depositories like the Duke University Library, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, University of Virginia, and Virginia Historical Society, a window is opened on the slave's world that no other type of primary documentary evidence affords.

Slavery in Antebellum Southern Industries presents some of the richest, most valuable, and most complete collections in the entire documentary record of American slavery, focusing on the industrial uses of slave labor. The materials selected include company records; business and personal correspondence; documents pertaining to the purchase, hire, medical care, and provisioning of slave laborers; descriptions of production processes; and journals recounting costs and income. The work ledgers in these collections record slave earnings and expenditures and provide extraordinary insight into slave life. The collections document slavery in such enterprises as gold, silver, copper, and lead mining; iron manufacturing, machine shop work, lumbering, quarrying, brickmaking, tobacco manufacturing, shipbuilding, and heavy construction; and building of railroads and canals.