At the birth of the United States in the 1770s, slavery was firmly embedded in its fabric. Blacks stolen from Africa were shipped to America as part of a lucrative trade system. Most enslaved people lived in the South, but about 10% lived in the North. By 1810 the population of free Blacks in the North had risen greatly because of the spread of abolitionist ideology.
After 1810 the use of the cotton gin made cotton a lucrative Southern crop. This dramatically increased the need for enslaved labor. By the time of the Civil War in the 1860s, slavery had polarized the nation into free and slave states. The struggle over slavery, especially its expansion into more western territories, was the fuel that ignited the Civil War. By its outbreak in 1861, 4,000,000 enslaved people toiled in the United States. The Proclamation of Emancipation, issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863, played a key role in ending slavery nationwide.
(Inscription under the image in the center left) Proclamation of Emancipation transcript
(Inscription beside the image in the lower left) This is an example of what slave quarters would have looked like, basic with no major luxuries.
(Inscription under the image in the upper right) This was what a typical ship looked like that was used in the slave trade during the 18th century.
(Inscription under the image in the lower right) Slave distribution according to the 1860 census.