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The Cotton Belt in the South and its Effects

By Edited Jul 28, 2016 0 0

The cotton belt’s massive economic success effected the institution of slavery and Southern society as well as creating a regional economy. The key to the cotton boom in the 1800’s was the cotton gin. The cotton gin extracted seeds from short staple cotton 50x faster than hand. It could be powered by horses or water. Even though the revolutionary device was invented by Eli Whitney, other farmers stole his idea and created their own. The ability to produce cotton productively demanded labor, and slaves were imported to the US in great quantities. Slaves worked using the gang labor system which meant that all the slaves, women, men, and children, worked at the same time doing the same task. Many Southerners believed that God meant for some people to rule over others. This justified the cruel treatment given to slaves and fueled the institution of slavery.

The cotton boom effected Southern society massively. Planters controlled most of the Southern population. They had the most political say and power. Planters owned massive large scale plantations that grew cash crops such as cotton over many acres. They owned 20 or more slaves to work long hours. Most planters enjoyed boasting their massive wealth by living in ornate and elaborate mansions. Others conserved their savings and lived in average houses. Yeomen were poorer workers that took great pride in their work and only owned one or two slaves. Yeomen worked alongside their slaves and consisted of much of the white Southern population. Poor white farmers usually lived on poor unwanted soil. They mostly grew food crops to live on and sell the extras. Although they were poor, they held more freedom than a free African American. Free slaves were scarce and earned their limited freedom through hard work or escaping the grasp of citizens and owners. They were only about 250,000 free African Americans in 1860, and even less in the years before. Some worked in the city doing skilled artisan jobs such as making shoes or being a barber. Others worked at plantations, but were paid to work. Free slaves still couldn’t vote and lacked other fundamental freedoms. They were greatly discriminated in the south. Slaves made up most of Southern society. They gained no respect and worked long hours without pay. They were bought and sold as property.

A regional economy was formed in South because of the cotton boom. Most if not all farmers and citizens wanted to contribute to the major profit gaining cotton industry. A regional economy is an economy that heavily relies on one product or service. Everyone contributed to the cotton industry and before a farmer could say ‘cotton’, a regional economy was born. But many leaders were concerned that the South relied on cotton too much because if cotton’s price dropped immensely, than the economy would collapse. The South made an attempt to industrialize. Few mills were created, but still suited the needs of farmers to supply goods for the cotton trade. Hemp and flax grew with cotton prices. Hemp and flax were used to make rope and sacks to bale cotton for shipping. Tredegar Iron works was one of the most productive iron factories in the nation. It was in Richmond, Virginia. The regional economy flourished during the cotton boom.

The cotton boom immensely affected the South.




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