Back to the Interactive Road to Civil War Timeline




The injustice of slavery needs no proof.  By 1860, more than 1/3 of the South's population was made up of slaves.  Slaves were made to work long hard hours doing a variety of jobs around their plantations.  While some slaves did work in the plantation owner's mansion, the majority

(Click here to hear a slave song)

of slaves worked in the cotton fields.  Slaves would typically spend up to 16 hours a day working in the hot southern sun.  Working in the cotton fields would turn the palms of a slave's hands into a piece of rough skin similar to the soles of your feet.  Slaves would typically be put to work by the age of 6 or 7.  They lived in dark simple one room slave cabins that usually had a dirt floor and a fireplace for cooking.  Slaves were extremely valuable.  Slaves could cost as much as $1,200 each so they were usually given a good diet and medical care. 

     Slavery offered no individual freedoms for the slave. They were not given last names and had very little idea about their family's past.  In most cases, all they knew was life on their plantation.  They were often physically punished for misbehavior and at times, families were even broken up and sold.  A series of laws passed in the south known as "Slave Codes" governed the activities of slaves and kept them from running away or rebellion.  Slaves could not congregate together,  and were not allowed to be educated.  The life of a slave was usually one of sweat and sorrow. 

     The institution of slavery divided the nation more than any other issue during the first half of the 19th century.  The slavery debate was so heated in fact that for a time it was not allowed to even be discussed in Congress for fear it would divide the union.  Our founding father's ability to compromise was great, however they did not confront the issue of slavery.  Our nation was born with this original sin that resembled a sleeping poisonous snake that some day would have to be awakened and confronted.