Episodes 6 & 7: Enslaved Migration, Parts 3 & 4

Whoops! I forgot to post a blog for the last episode! So this post will have data for episodes 6 and 7. So much data!

As can be seen, U.S. cotton production began with just 3,000 bales in 1791, but rose to over 4 million bales on the eve of the Civil War. That war decimated cotton production, though it should be added that I think this graph excludes cotton production in areas outside of Union control, so actual cotton production is probably substantially higher.

The above chart shows the arrivals of enslaved people from 1770-1807. As you can see, arrivals were high before the War of Independence, fell during it, then spiked up again afterwards as pent-up demand was met. But arrivals wouldn't surpass the 1786 level until 1794, after the invention of the cotton gin.

I don't have a great explanation for the dip from 1797 to 1800. It's possible it may relate to piracy by the Barbary states, or potentially economic disruptions due to the Napoleonic Wars and their attendant violence.

Good data on domestic migration of enslaved people is hard to find. But here are maps from the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture:


The estimates I offer come from scraping lots of different articles and books. But put broadly, we don't have a great estimate of enslaved migration, and there are very significant limitations to estimating how many enslaved migrants migrated as a result of a sale, versus migration accompanying the same master. While it may seem unimportant to some, these were different experiences that I'd like to be able to separate. Unfortunately, it's very hard to do so.

Also, you can find a really cool decadal interactive map of enslaved migrations here.

That's it for Episode 6! Not tons of stuff, but some. Now on to Episode 7!

Talking about "internal expansion," we can see that from 1820-1840, population growth in the south was overwhelmingly concentrated in cotton-belt states (and Missouri, where St. Louis led population growth benefiting from hefty German immigration).

Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, all have a whole leg up on Kentucky or Louisiana, while the old south in the Carolinas and the Chesapeake states saw much smaller growth.

But new states like Florida, Texas, and Arkansas also look really small. That's just because of low initial population. If we present growth as a percent of initial population, we get:

Holy cow! Texas saw huge growth! Arkanss, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida all more than quadrupled in size, while Louisiana, Georgia, and Tennessee all doubled. Meanwhile, Kentucky, the Carolinas, and the Chesapeake states saw much, much slower growth. Southerners were moving westward, especially to areas where cotton could be grown profitably, like Texas.

And... that's it for Episode 7! These episodes were a lot of narrative and elaboration on the data. If you've got any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below, and I'll try to get back to you!