Emancipation in the Mountain South: Evidence, Sources, & Methods
Race, Ethnicity, Class & Gender:
Women, Work & Family in Antebellum Appalachia
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Images of Slavery in Appalachian
Abingdon, Virginia A slave chambermaid in an Abingdon,
Virginia hotel. More than one-third of all Appalachian slaveholders and
one-fifth of the slaves were engaged in such nonagricultural pursuits.
Monticello Monticello, the Blue Ridge plantation of Thomas
Jefferson, typified Appalachia's wealthiest slaveholding elites.
Botetourt County Field Laborers The gender division of field labor
is seen in this Botetourt County, Virginia wheat harvest. Two males are
collecting the cut grain from the field and operating an oxcart to haul it
to centralized spots where two women are stacking the grain. Subsequently,
the same males would haul the grain to the barn where other women were
Livestock Drive Appalachian slaves were livestock artisans and
specialists of all kinds. This southwest Virginia slave drover is exporting
his owner's cattle to Richmond. Appalachian pork
and beef provisioned larger plantations in the Tidewater, the Lower South,
and Latin America.
County This was hog slaughtering day on an Augusta County,
Virginia small plantation. Appalachian slaves provided the skills to produce
and process the pork and lard consumed on a small plantation, plus the
surplus meat products exported by their owners.
Lexington, Virginia In addition to their agricultural pursuits,
many Appalachian slaveholders invested in town enterprises to which they
allocated slave laborers, like this valet and hostler at a Lexington,
Tourist Resort Slaves provided much of the labor for Appalachia's
antebellum travel enterprises, comprised of resorts, hotels, inns,
transportation companies, and the livestock drover trade. During the
summers, Appalachian slaves were regularly hired to work at 134 mineral
spas, such as these workers at White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia.
Slaves & Canal Boating Slaves regularly operated especially
designed boats and bateaux on the three major canal systems that connected
the Southern Mountains to distant trade cities. This barge was spotted on
the North River extension connecting Lexington, Virginia to the James River
and Kanawha Canal to Richmond.
Virginia Salt Manufacturing Slaves supplied most of the labor to
produce Appalachia's salt, one of the region's most important exports to the
Lower South and the Midwest. At this salt manufactory in southwest Virginia,
slaves did most of the skilled work, such as kettle tending (right) and
boiler tending (left).
River Slave Coffle The Southern Mountains lay at the geographical
heart of the domestic slave trade, so slave coffles were a common sight in
Appalachian counties. This coffle had camped for the night, waiting to cross
the New River in southwest Virginia.
Tobacco Manufacturing Because they profited less from their field
labor, Appalachian masters hired out a higher proportion of their slaves
than did Lower South plantations. For example, mountain Virginia masters
hired out surplus slaves to tobacco manufactories, like this one in
Rockbridge County Due to attenuated breastfeeding, malnutrition,
and inadequate child care, one-half of all Appalachian slave children died
before age ten. Elderly slaves, like this Rockbridge County, Virginia woman,
tended large groups of children while mothers worked in the fields or were
Loudoun County Slave Escape These Loudoun County, Virginia slaves
were very aggressive in their escape to the North. Women were included among
this group, but most such runaways were males aged 18 to 35.
Fauquier County corn husking There are no women at this Fauquier
County, Virginia corn husking, a labor maximizing strategy at harvest time.
On many small plantations, men processed corn while slave women quilted
winter bedding. About midnight, food would be served, and the singing and
dancing could begin.
Fauquier County Slave Dance Summer and harvest dances were
significant mechanisms for community building by Appalachian slaves on small
plantations. In this Fauquier County, Virginia scene, the group is
preserving African dance traditions. The mid-ground slave is
"patting juba" to set
the pace for the other two. Notice the observation platform in the tree.
Slaves used such perches to light their night work in their subsistence
Fauquier County Slaves Escaping during the Civil War After a major
battle in their area, these Fauquier County, Virginia fugitives were
crossing the Rappahannock River headed to the Union encampment. These are
probably the families of the uniformed black Union soldiers (behind wagon).
In the background are a commercial mill and a bridge. Source: Freedmen's
Bureau Records, National Archives
Escaped slaves into Appalachian Towns During and after the war,
black Appalachians pored into towns, like Knoxville, Staunton, Rome, and
Winchester. By 1870, one-quarter of the mountain ex-slaves were concentrated
in towns, but few of them located stable nonagricultural occupations.