History of slavery in Louisiana

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The history of slavery in the territory currently known as Louisiana began after its settlement by Europeans, as Native Americans also reduced captured enemies to the status of slaves. Following Robert Cavelier de La Salle establishing the French claim to the territory, and the introduction of the name Louisiana, the French developed their first settlements at Natchitoches (1714) and New Orleans (1718), and introduced slavery. The institution was maintained by the Spanish (1763–1800) when the area was known as New Spain, by the French when they returned (1800- 1803) and by the United States, following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.

French rule (1699-1763)[edit]

Chattel slavery was introduced by French colonists in Louisiana in 1706, when they made raids on the Chitimacha settlements. Thousands of indigenous people were killed, and the surviving women and children were taken as slaves. The enslavement of natives, including the Atakapa, Bayogoula, Natchez, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Taensa, and Alabamon peoples, would continue throughout the history of French rule.[citation needed] While Native American peoples had sometimes made slaves of enemies captured in war, they also tended to adopt them into their tribes and incorporate them among their people.

The French introduced African chattel slaves to the territory in 1710, after capturing a number as plunder during the War of the Spanish Succession. Trying to develop the new territory, the French transported more than 2,000 Africans to New Orleans between 1717–1721, on at least eight ships. The death toll for African and native slaves was high, with scurvy and dysentery widespread because of poor nutrition and sanitation. Although sailors also suffered from scurvy, enslaved Africans were subject to more shipboard diseases owing to overcrowding.

Spanish rule (1763-1803)[edit]

When Alejandro O'Reilly re-established Spanish rule in 1768, he issued a decree on December 7, 1769 which banned the trade of Native American slaves.[1] Although there was no movement toward abolition of the African slave trade, Spanish rule introduced a new law called coartación, which allowed slaves to buy their freedom, and that of others.[2]

A group of maroons led by Jean Saint Malo resisted re-enslavement from their base in the swamps east of New Orleans between 1780-84.

Point Coupee Conspiracy of 1795[edit]

On May 4, 1795 57 slaves and three local white men were put on trial in Point Coupee. At the end of the trial 23 slaves were hanged, 31 slaves received a sentence of flogging and hard labour and the three white men were deported, with two being sentenced to six years forced labour in Havana.[3]

U.S. rule[edit]

The demand for slavery increased among U.S. settlers in Louisiana and other parts of the Deep South after the invention of the cotton gin (1793) and the Louisiana Purchase (1803). The cotton gin allowed the processing of short-staple cotton, which thrived in the upland areas. It made possible a new commodity crop in northern Louisiana, although sugar cane continued to be predominant in the southern part of the territory. The northern area of the state became another outpost for the "Cotton Empire", which soon encompassed neighboring states, such as Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Texas.

The Mississippi River delta area around New Orleans created the ideal alluvial soil necessary for the growing of sugar cane. Sugar was the prime export of Louisiana during the antebellum period.

In 1811, the largest slave revolt in American history took place outside New Orleans, as slaves rebelled against the brutal work regimens of sugar plantations. The 1811 German Coast Uprising ended with white militias hunting down black slaves, lopping off their heads, and placing the piked heads on the levees.

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 slaves located in territories that were in rebellion from the United States were free. In some areas, slaves left their plantations to seek Union lines for freedom. If located too far away, they were often held in servitude until the US gained control of the South.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Midlo Hall, Gwendolyn (1992). Africans in Colonial Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press. p. 336. 
  2. ^ [1] Berquist, Emily. Early Anti-Slavery Sentiment in the Spanish Atlantic World, 1765-1817
  3. ^ Midlo Hall, Gwendolyn (1992). Africans in Colonial Louisiana. Louisiana State University Press. p. 344. 

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