Agriculture in Southern Society

Essential Question

What was the significance of agriculture in the South?

Agriculture in Southern Society

The economy of the South was agrarian (related to agriculture), the warm climate meant a long growing season. Farms and large plantations produced agricultural products such as cotton, tobacco, corn, sugar, and rice. The economy depended on slave labor to produce these products cheaply. The South was mostly rural, with few large cities.

English textile (cloth) mills had created a huge demand for cotton, but cotton took a lot of time and workers to grow and harvest. The most time-consuming task was cleaning the cotton – separating the seeds from the cotton fibers

In 1793, Eli Whitney invented a machine called the Cotton Gin (short for en”gin”e) that cleaned cotton much more quickly and efficiently. One worker could clean 1 pound a day by hand, but 50 pounds a day with the gin. This invention changed life in the South dramatically in the following ways:

    • Planters grew more cotton, and cotton exports increased

    • Slavery expanded to meet the growing demand for cotton production

    • Cotton growing spread further south and west, eventually reaching Texas

    • More American Indian groups were driven off their land as it was taken over for cotton plantations

The Growth of the Cotton Industry.pdf

Discussion Questions

  • How widespread was slave ownership before 1820? How widespread was slave ownership in 1860?

  • Why was there an increase in the demand for cotton?

  • How did the cotton gin make growing cotton more profitable?

  • Why did cotton production and the number of slaves in the U.S. both increase at the same time?

Activity 1: What were the causes and effects of the growth of the cotton industry in the South?

Using the information from this lesson, answer the question in a thinking map. Complete this assignment digitally or on paper. It will be collected in your portfolio.

Extension Activities