American History 1785 - 1849

United States History Life in the South

Picking Cotton

The south produced the cotton that was made into cloth in New England. In 1793 an inventor named Eli Whitney made it easy for the South to produce much more cotton with a machine he called the cotton gin. Before Whitney's invention it had taken a field hand one day to take the seed out of one pound of cotton. A hand-run cotton gin could remove the seeds from fifty pounds of cotton in a day. A water-powered gin could clean a thousand pounds of cotton in a day.
Eli Whitney

As the demand for cotton grew more and more slaves were needed to plant, hoe, pick, and gin the crops. Slaves were never paid any wages. The owner had to give a slave a small cabin, some food, and a suit of clothing. Slaves could not quit. Their children were the property of the owner and could be sold like a piece of property.

The climate in the South was much like the climate in Africa. Slaves were used to working in the hot sun. The Lower South became a one-crop area. It raised cotton.

Planters in the South were rich and happy. They lived in big homes overlooking thousands of acres of cotton land. They spent their spare time with balls and parties. The life of the slave was hard with long work hours and little time for rest.


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