Industrial slave

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An industrial slave is a type of slave who typically worked in an industrial setting. These slaves often had work that was more dangerous than agricultural slaves.

United States[edit]

In the antebellum southern United States, industrial slaves were often the property of a company instead of an individual.[1] These companies spanned various industries including sawmills, cotton gins and mills, fishing, steamboats, sugar refineries, coal and gold mining, and railroads.[2]

Industrial slaves were exposed to many dangerous jobs in factories. Most of the machinery and tools were very new and the simplest mistake could mean the loss of a hand, foot, or even death. Industrial slaves worked twelve hours per day, six days per week. The only breaks they received were for a short lunch during the day, and Sunday or the occasional holiday during the week. Not many of the slaves had to endure working every day the whole year around, however.[citation needed]

Industrial slaves gave a great advantage to those companies that owned them. The companies boosted their annual profits by 6 to 42 per cent.[citation needed] The use of industrial slaves sometimes allowed a bankrupt company to be resurrected: "The Woodville mill, which went bankrupt with free labor, annually paid 10 to 15 per cent dividends after switching to slave labor".[3]


  1. ^ "Slavery in Ante-Bellum Southern Industries". The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. 1999. Retrieved 2007-10-29. 
  2. ^ "Railroad and Canal Construction Industries and Other Trades and Industries". Series C: Selections from the Virginia Historical Society. University Publications of America. 1997. 
  3. ^ Starobin, Robert S. (1970). Industrial Slavery in the Old South. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-500113-6.