Slavery in the South

Essential Question

What did African-Americans slaves in the South Experience?


Activity 1: Primary Source - Twelve Years a Slave

Define the vocabulary words, read the primary source excerpts, and answer the text-dependent questions.

Primary Source-Twelve Years a Slave

Origins and Development of Slavery

The Spanish and Portuguese first brought African slaves to the Americas in the 1400s and 1500s where slaves worked mainly in the Caribbean sugar plantations. Slavery on the sugar plantations was particularly brutal. The first slaves came to the American South in 1619 and continued through the slave trade, which brought slaves from West Africa to the Americas, increased dramatically in the 1700s

Slavery’s Effects on Black Americans

Life under slavery in the American South was harsh and unforgiving. Enslaved African Americans endured wretched living conditions, hard labor, and brutal punishments. Families were broken up when owners sold off children or separated husbands and wives. Despite all this, the enslaved people managed to forge a new African-American culture that offered them comfort, hope, and the courage to resist. Many found comfort in music, family, community, and in their culture. Many slaves became Christian, and some enslaved people began to sing spirituals to express their religious beliefs. Slaves eventually blended some aspects of traditional African religions with those of Christianity.

Slavery’s Effects on the Development of the South

The South depended on unpaid labor to grow cotton, tobacco, and rice. Slavery made it possible for a few people (plantation owners) to become extremely rich. Most Southerners did not own slaves but supported the system.

Efforts to Preserve Slavery

Slaveholders fought to protect slavery through harsh slave laws. These laws promised severe punishments to slaves who tried to run away or resist. The South also pushed through national laws that made it illegal to help runaway slaves.

The Slave System.pdf

Discussion Questions

  • What restrictions did slave codes place on enslaved African-Americans? Why?

  • What were living conditions like for most slaves?

  • What different types of work were done by slaves on plantations?

  • What is one way for an enslaved person to gain freedom?

Activity 2: What were the lives of enslaved African-Americans in the South like?

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

See how slavery grew in the U.S. over two centuries