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South Carolina – African-Americans – Slave Population

Also see: African-Americans - 1525-1865 Main Page

Written by Michael Trinkley of the Chicora Foundation

Growth of South Carolina's Slave Population

South Carolina had a clear black majority from about 1708 through most of the eighteenth century. By 1720 there were approximately 18,000 people living in South Carolina – and 65% of these were African-Americans slaves. For example, in St James Goose Creek, a parish just north of Charles Towne, there were 535 whites and 2,027 black slaves.

The following table shows how South Carolina's slave population grew in accordance with the success of its rice culture. Whereas in 1790 there were slightly more whites than blacks living in South Carolina, by 1860 the non-white population (which also included Native Americans) had grown to nearly 60%.

White Black
140,178 108,895
White Black
237,440 265,301
White Black
259,084 335,314
White Black
291,300 412,320

South Carolina's slave population compared to other states

South Carolina had a tremendous number of slaves, especially given its small size. In fact, by 1860 the only other states that had as many slaves were Georgia and Virginia – both of which were at least twice South Carolina's size!

South Carolina's giant slave population was largely due to the lowcountry's suitability to rice culture. Rice was both incredibly labor intensive and incredibly profitable. So not only did rice planters need more help than other planters, they could afford it.

Click here to see a map of the United States slave distribution in 1860.


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