Episode 8: Enslaved Migration, the Finale

We're finally done with slavery! yaaaay!

I've already presented extensive data on population and slavery. So today, I'll just offer some tables on the progress of emancipation.

When I assembled this dataset, I had this article in mind

Pretty remarkable I think that we've got a chart of the great American social movements... except for slavery. Whoops.

So what does it look like if we include slavery?

Well, I don't have the underlying data for the above chart so can't duplicate it (I've asked the authors; no response), I can provide a chart showing the rise of emancipation. Now, to do that, there are different methods. We can look at any emancipation or initial emancipation; we can look at full emancipation or complete emancipation; or we can look at partial emancipation.

If we only care about when a place made its first step towards emancipation, i.e. when the political will for emancipation became sufficiently dominant to pass a law, then we care about "initial" emancipation. But if we care about when slavery was actually abolished, i.e. when nobody was enslaved anymore, then we care about when the emancipatory process was completed. On the other hand, maybe we want to give some reward for even partial, hesitant, early emancipations: so we score based on partial emancipation.

The below chart shows the number of admitted states in the union that were free states according to each method, as well as a line showing the total number of admitted states.

As we've talked about, the solid "free state" bloc doesn't really become apparent until the 1840s when many states with gradual, partial, or incomplete emancipation move towards full emancipation. Then in 1863 we get the Emancipation Proclamation covering some states, and then in 1866 the 13th amendment becomes effective in the rest.

But, hold on. Much of the debate about slavery wasn't about the states. It was about the territories. So now, let's ask how many future states are free.

Above, you can see a new story. Even in the 1840s and 1850s as more states were completing their emancipations, the territories were becoming less free. Initial or partial emancipations were being rolled back by legislative and judicial actions. But then of course, in the 1860s, slavery was ended throughout the country.

That's the march of slavery. It took the country 80 years from its founding to abolition for this process to be completed. At the territorial level, there were advances for the cause of freedom, and setbacks, like the case of Utah that we mentioned in the show. Freedom did not advance uniformly or without temporary defeats.

And with that, I conclude my blog for episode 8. Hope you enjoyed the show!