The Story: Antebellum Slavery

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"On the 30th of May, 1803, I was ushered into the world but I did not begin to see the rising of its dark clouds, nor fancy how they might be broken and dispersed, until some time afterwards. My infancy was spent upon the floor, in a rough cradle, or sometimes in my mother's arms. My early boyhood in playing with the other boys and girls, colored and white, in the yard, and occasionally doing such little matters of labor as one of so young years could. I knew no difference between myself and the white children nor did they seem to know any in turn. Sometimes my master would come out and give a biscuit to me, and another to one of his own white boys but I did not perceive the difference between us. I had no brothers or sisters, but there were other colored families living in the same kitchen, and the children playing in the same yard, with me and my mother. "


- Lunsford Lane, Raleigh, N.C.

The ban on importing slaves to North Carolina was lifted in 1790, and the state’s slave population quickly increased. By 1800, there were around 140,000 blacks living in North Carolina. A small number of these were free blacks, who mostly farmed or worked in skilled trades. The majority were slaves working in agriculture on small- to medium-sized farms. As in the colonial period, few North Carolina slaves lived on huge plantations. Fifty-three percent of slave owners in the state owned five or fewer slaves, and only 2.6 percent of slaves lived on farms with over 50 other slaves during the antebellum period. In fact, by 1850, only 91 slave owners in the whole state owned over 100 slaves.