Slavery in Georgia 1780’s

A huge part of Georgia’s economy was based on slavery. Based on the 1790 census, there were 29,264 slaves in the state of Georgia, which represented thirty-five percent of the total population. There were only 398 free blacks in the whole state of Georgia. There were two types of labor systems that were used: task and gang. The task system required each person daily to complete 105 square feet of labor. After they were done with the amount, they were done for the day. The gang system divided the slaves into groups based of their own abilities. Each group would do one activity for the day and once the group was collectively done, they could stop working.

Cotton and rice were the two main crops that were harvested in Georgia. In the upcountry, which was northern Georgia, short staple cotton was picked. In the low country, near the coast, rice was produced. Sea Island cotton was introduced into the low country area in the 1780’s, which supplied another cash crop besides rice.

The typical workday for slaves during the summer lasted 4:45am until 7pm at night, and then 6:15am until 7:30pm in the winter. Laborers often had to pick up to two hundred pounds of cotton per day. They would often sing certain songs to control the tempo of the cotton picking and the pounding of rice. A song would usually contain this common verse:

De little bee suck de blossom

De big bee make de honey.

De nigger make the cott

And de white folks tote de money.

Woman picking cotton

During the 1780’s, gender was becoming more and more important with regards to slavery, especially in the slave markets around bigger cities like Savannah.

Previously, both men and women worked in the fields, but a trend was developing that men tended to work outside, while women would come into the house. In the house, women would clean, feed and care for their owners. They would also nurse, sew, and become maids and midwifes. In the house, white women would become closer to the enslaved women. This was because interaction between white females was scare since plantations were often located far apart.

Slave Auction Poster from the 1780’s

Churches were often a huge part of the slaves lives when they were not working. In the 1780’s slaves were becoming more and more informed, and claimed the right to hold their own religion. The Baptist church was starting to take hold with the slave population. The first African Church opened in Savannah in 1787. In Savannah, the Christ Church, which was another popular church among the slaves, had ammunition stores and would protect the slaves with firearms. This shows how churches often become a meeting place for slaves, that would aid them in creating rebellions among the plantation.


Works Cited:

Berry, Daina Ramey. “Swing the sickle for the harvest is ripe”: gender and slavery in antebellum Georgia. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007. Print.

Wood, Betty. Women’s work, men’s work: the informal slave economies of lowcountry Georgia. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1995. Print.

“The Inconsistency not to be Excused: Slavery and the American Founding.” — Free Seminars and Summer Institutes for Social Studies Teachers. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *