Richmond, Virginia — The American South (Mid-Atlantic)
Richmond Slave Trail
In Virginia and the rest of the United States, the waterways, both rivers and man-made canals served as the main avenues of commerce. Ships from across the Atlantic or from other American ports transported goods that were transferred to smaller ships and bateaus—flat boats designed to navigate shallow water—which in turn carried them further into the interior. Enslaved men were frequently employed on these boats, responsible for transporting hogheads of tobacco from plantations and down the riverways to cities to be sold and exported.
Many plantations in the Upper South reaped the benefit of one of the regionís most high-yield cash crops: tobacco. Requiring intensive labor and causing heavy depletions of the soil, the practice of tobacco production was a fast and furious enterprise. To address the problem of soil exhaustion, many farms later switched to “gentler” crops such as grains and vegetables. For the enslaved, daily life on these [right panel] post-tobacco plantations was considered “less bad” than elsewhere in the country. Here, African captives endured fewer severe physical demands and often benefitted from a task-based system that allowed them to work at their own pace and without supervision. Enslaved people could usually marry, raise families and
However, African captives sent to the Lower South — Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas — experienced much harsher conditions. The invention of the cotton gin in 1793 greatly increased the productivity of the cotton industry and created a massive demand for hands to plow, tend, and harvest the fields. Throughout the Lower South, cash crops, such as cotton, sugar and tobacco, claimed every inch of arable land; consequently, enslaved Africans were not given plots on which to grow their own vegetables, nor were they given the time to build adequate shelters. Gangs of African captives worked from “first light till full dark” as a condition of enslavement under the ready whip of white and black overseers, ruthlessly driven to plant, cultivate and harvest these lucrative crops.
Sources: Wayland Fuller Dunaway, The History of the James River and Kanawha Canal Company; Peter Way, Common Labour: Workers and the Digging of the North American Canals; The South in the Building of the Nation; Volume V; Weeks, Dick. “Slavery in the Civil War Era.” The American Civil War Homepage. http://www.civilwarhome.com/slavery.htm
Intended to connect the tidewaters of the
About the Trail
Designed as a walking path, the Richmond Slave Trail chronicles the history of the trade in enslaved Africans from their homeland to Virginia until 1778, and away from Virginia, especially Richmond, to other locations in the Americas until 1865. The trail begins at the Manchester Docks, which, alongside Rocketts Landing on the north side of the river, operated as a major port in the massive downriver
Title image: “After the Sale: Slaves Going South”, 1853, Painted from live by Eyre Crowe, courtesy the Chicago History Museum
Erected 2011 by Richmond Slave Trail Commission. (Marker Number 11.)
Location. 37° 31.939′ N, 77° 25.903′ W. Marker is in Richmond, Virginia. Marker can be reached from Dock Street east of South 15th Street. Touch for map. This marker is on the Richmond
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Triple Crossing (a few steps from this marker); Shockoe Slip (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Early Shockoe (about 300 feet away); African Americans and the Waterfront (about 400 feet away); Use of Arms (about 500 feet away); Auction Houses (about 500 feet away); Burnt District (about 500 feet away); Canal Walk / Historic Canals (about 500 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Richmond.
Also see . . . Richmond City Council Slave Trail Commission. (Submitted on April 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.)
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans • Man-Made Features • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on April 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia. This page has been viewed 863 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on April 22, 2011, by Bernard Fisher of Mechanicsville, Virginia.