Civil War Slavery

, Malcolm A. Kline, 4 Comments

That there was slavery in America is a tragic fact of American history. The extent of it might surprise you.

According to the U. S. Census Bureau, the percentage of families owning slaves in the old confederacy, as of 1860, was:

Alabama 35%
Arkansas 20%
Delaware 3%
Florida 34%
Georgia 37%
Kentucky 23%
Louisiana 29%
Maryland 12%
Mississippi 49%
Missouri 13%
North Carolina 28%
South Carolina 46%
Tennessee 25%
Texas 28%
Virginia 26%

We should note that Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri were border states, literally
on the Mason-Dixon line that divided the North and the South. That there was any percentages is,
of course, shocking.

Moreover, in South Carolina and Mississippi, as you can see, nearly half of the families owned
slaves. In half a dozen of these states—Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and
Texas—about one-third of the families tallied owned slaves.

Together, they make up more than half of the Confederacy. Yet and still, in Virginia, in the
cradle of the Confederacy, and the site of recent riots over it, the percentage of families with slaves
was around a quarter. In Arkansas it was closer to a fifth and in in Maryland it was considerably less than


4 Responses

  1. Greg Small

    September 9, 2017 2:25 pm

    Before I try to understand the numbers, I would need to know details that affect the interpretation. Your cited page is not the “US Census Bureau”, so there is no way to review their methodology.

    How good was the coverage in 1860? As an ancestry researcher, it is clear that many people are not counted. How many records have been lost? I would expect slave holders to be more likely to be counted.

    Census family groups often include adult family members and farm hands. Including them as a single “family” tends to increase the apparent ownership.

Leave a Reply

(*) Required, Your email will not be published