Virginia Memory, Library of Virginia
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Slavery

Union or Secession
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  • E. Hergesheimer, Map of Virginia Showing the Distribution of its Slave Population from the Census of 1860, C. B. Graham, Lithographer (Washington, D.C.: Henry S. Graham, 1861), Library of Virginia.,
    Map of slave population in Virginia
  • Richmond City Hustings Court Minute Book 20:401, Library of Virginia.,
    Ferguson family "are not negros"
  • <em>Richmond Daily Dispatch</em>, September 1, 1858,
    William Ferguson on trial
  • <em>Richmond Business Directory for 1859–'59 </em> (Richmond, Va.: J. W. Randolph, 1858), 54. Collections of the Library of Virginia.,
    Hector Davis advertises his auction house
  • Deed of Manumission for Lucy Goode Brooks and three children, October 21, 1862. Richmond City Hustings Court Deed Book 78A:393–394, Library of Virginia.,
    Lucy Goode Brooks is freed
  • Martha Haines Butt, <em>Antifanaticism: A Tale of the South</em> (Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo, and Co., 1853), 266–267.,
    Response to Uncle Tom's Cabin
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Slavery

Almost half a million Virginians, nearly one-third of the entire population of the state, lived in slavery in 1860. More enslaved people and more owners of slaves lived in Virginia than in any other state. A large majority of Virginia's enslaved people worked on farms and plantations, and most of them resided east of the Blue Ridge. The counties between the mountains and Chesapeake Bay, where tobacco cultivation retained prime economic importance, had the highest concentrations of enslaved people in the state. South of the Rappahannock River, about half of the region's population lived in slavery. In about a dozen counties the enslaved portion of the total population was between 60 percent and 70 percent, and in two counties, Nottoway and Amelia, the number rose to between 70 and 75 percent. Of all of the regional differences within the United States, the most important were between the states where slavery was legal and of greatest economic importance and the states where slavery was not legal. Likewise, within Virginia the very uneven distribution of the enslaved population created distinct regional differences that influenced how people reacted to the secession crisis when it erupted at the end of 1860.

Slavery in Virginia

In one way or another, many white Virginians were deeply invested in the economy of slave labor, using enslaved people either to work on their farms and plantations or as cooks or household servants.

Slavery and the Nation

By the middle of the nineteenth century, many residents of the free states who were avid proponents of free labor became increasingly critical of the institution of slavery and wished to forbid its expansion. At the same time many Southern slave owners began defending slavery as a positive institution that civilized and Christianized the enslaved people and enriched the nation as a whole.

Featured Biographies:

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  • Lucy Goode Brooks (1818-1900)
  • John E. Ferguson (1810-1859)
  • Martha Haines Butt (1833-1871)
  • Hector Davis (1816-1863)
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