Antebellum: The time period before the Civil War. KING COTTON
Plantations are large farms that raised cash crops. Most plantations were as large as cities and were self-sufficient, meaning that they produced everything needed for the planters (owners), their families, and their workers.
Tobacco Cotton Plantations produced cash crops such as indigo, tobacco, rice, sugar, and cotton, which were to be sold to the North and Europe. The South also grew food, such as wheat, yams, and corn, although the bulk of their farms were dedicated to cash crop, especially cotton.
Aside from agriculture, the South did have some manufacturing.
Tredegar Iron Works Located in Richmond, Virginia Built in 1833 by Rhys Davies, it was the main producer of iron, cannons, and ammunition in the South.
Cotton wasn’t popular because it was too difficult to clean. Let’s see why!
The cotton gin, which was invented by Eli Whitney, made cleaning cotton faster and easier. Now cotton was more profitable to produce, so Southern planters quickly switch over to producing cotton instead of other cash crops. The increased in cotton production led to the Cotton Boom, as it soon became the number one crop of the South. click for animated patent drawing The Cotton Boom
Because of the cotton gin, cotton soon became the biggest export in America by the 1860s.
Slavery and Cotton Cotton production was a very labor intensive crop, so more slaves were needed in order to grow and harvest the crop.
Planters: This group was the highest social class in the South. They were the rich plantations owners who usually had 50 or more slaves. Planters were the leaders of the South. Yeomen: This is was “middle class,” small independent farmers. Although some had a few slaves, most were basically self sufficient farmers who grew enough to provide for their families.
Poor Whites: Lowest class of Whites. Struggled to make ends, they had no slaves and made up a large part of the South. Free Blacks: Worked as paid laborers either on a plantation or as an artisan if they had a special skill. Although free, there were many restrictive laws that they had to obey, including the wearing of badges to prove that they were free.
Plantation Slaves Jobs on plantations were given based on ability. Trusted old women/young children to be house servants. Normal work day was from “sun up to sun down”. Overseers watched over the slaves, making sure that the work was done properly.
City Slaves Lived with their masters in the same house. Served as butlers, maids, and cooks. Women were also used to take care of the master’s children.
Planters Yeomen Poor Whites Free Blacks Slaves The Social Class Pyramid