History of slavery in Georgia (U.S. state)

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Slavery in Georgia is known to have been practiced by the original or earliest known residents of the future colony and state for centuries prior to European settlement. However, the penal colony of the Province of Georgia under James Oglethorpe, is known to have been the only British colony to have banned slavery before legalizing it (1735) with the help of George Whitfield. It was eventually legalized by royal decree in 1751.

Birthplace of the cotton gin[edit]

Georgia also figures significantly in the history of American slavery because of Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793. It was first demonstrated to an audience on Revolutionary War hero Gen. Nathanael Greene's plantation, near Savannah. The cotton gin's invention led both to the explosion of cotton as a cash crop as well as to the revitalization of African slavery in the Southern United States, which soon became dependent upon the growth and sale of cotton to manufacturers in the Northern United States and abroad.

Georgia slavery during the Civil War[edit]

Georgia voted to secede from the Union and join the CSA on January 19, 1861. Years later, in 1865, during his March to the Sea, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman signed his Special Field Orders, No. 15, distributing some 400,000 acres (1,600 km²) of confiscated land along the Atlantic Coast from Charleston, South Carolina to the St. Johns River in Florida to the slaves freed by Sherman's forces. Most of the settlers and their descendants are today known as the Gullah.

Slavery was officially abolished by the Thirteenth Amendment which took effect on December 18, 1865. Slavery had been theoretically abolished by President Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation which proclaimed, in 1863, that only slaves located in territories that were in rebellion from the United States were free. Since the U.S. government was not in effective control of many of these territories until later in the war, many of these slaves proclaimed to be free by the Emancipation Proclamation were still held in servitude until those areas came back under Union control.


In 2002, the City of Savannah unveiled a bronze statue on River Street in commemoration of the African-Americans who were brought to Georgia as slaves through the city's port.

In 2005, Wachovia Bank apologized to Georgia's African-American community for its predecessor's (Georgia Railroad and Banking Company of Augusta, Georgia) role in the use of at least 182 slaves in the building of that railroad.

See also[edit]

  • George Whitfield with reference to his orphanage supported by his slaves, after he had campaigned to legalize slavery in Georgia.


Further reading[edit]

  • Watson W. Jennison, Cultivating Race: The Expansion of Slavery in Georgia, 1750-1860. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2012.

External links[edit]