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U.S. Slave States – Population Spread Sheet


Commentary by LeRoy Chatfield

I knew slavery existed in the colonies before and after the Revolutionary War until Abraham Lincoln emancipated them in 1863. Unfortunately, and sad to report,  this sums up my understanding of the history of slavery in our country.

After I visited and toured the Slave Museum, aka Whitney Plantation in New Orleans, I began to understand  the magnitude of slavery was measured in the millions, so  I made the decision to create a spread sheet to help me  document and visualize its size.

Step 1.

I started by listing the slave states: MS- Mississippi; SC-South Carolina; GA-Georgia; AL-Alabama; FL-Florida; LA-Louisiana; NC-North Carolina; TX-Texas; VA-Virginia; TN-Tennessee; KY-Kentucky; AR- Arkansas; MO-Missouri; MD-Maryland; DE-Delaware.

Step 2.

Using the 1850 U.S. Census, I created 3 Columns – 1850 Percentage of Slave Ownership; 1850 White Population; 1850 Slave Population. As I examined the numbers, I realized the United States was still in the process of enrolling states in the Union – some as free states and others as slave states –  so perhaps I was not creating a complete picture.

Step 3.

I decided to use the 1860 Census as a baseline because those numbers were likely the peak of slavery before the emancipation of 1863.  In turn, I listed the 1860 free population; the 1860 slave population; and the number of slave owners in each slave state.

Step 4.

I used the 2010 Census to list the number of African Americans then living in each former slave state to show the size of the African American community in each of those states  150 years  after their emancipation.  I wanted to  show what percent of the population in 2010 they now were in each former slave state.

Step 5. 

I listed the number of white supremacy memorials that were erected after the Civil War in each former slave state  because of the modern day realization that these memorials honor white supremacy and continue to be a major road block to full racial integration.

Step 6. 

I listed the number of African Americans who were lynched in each former slave state during the 70-year  reign of terror waged against the presence of  African Americans. (Note: EJI (Equal Justice Initiative) has documented and updated the number of lynchings to be: 4400)


John Cummings III, founder of the Whitney Plantation slavery museum said: You cannot understand the United States of America, unless you understand slavery.  Even though I have become somewhat obsessed about the history of slavery in our country, and tried to inform myself about it, I am still very much a novice.

But here  some of the issues I have been thinking about:

(1)  As a life-long Catholic – and a former member of its clerical caste –  how do I process and deal with the fact that slavery in our country can be traced back to the papacy of Pope Nicholas V in 1452 who  issued a Papal Bull  (the name given to  the most important decree or document that can be issued by a pope) which authorized Portugal to capture and enslave Africans?  This decree was reissued and  reaffirmed by four successive popes – Callixtus  III, Sixtus IV, Alexander VI, and Leo X.  To my knowledge, none of these official decrees have been officially withdrawn or abrogated by the Roman Catholic Papacy and no public confession, restitution,  or even apology has been offered.    Please!  Let us  not dance around this tragic, tragic sin against humanity by drumming up theological distinctions and niceties about whether slaves are human beings, 0r to what extent,  or not.  History records that more than 13 million slaves were transported to the New World and sold to the highest bidders looking to profit from the use of cheap labor – human labor – human beings!

Note:  For those readers who may ask why I do not consider Pope Gregory XVI’s Bull “In Supremo Apostolatus issued in 1839 to be an abrogation of previous papacy Bulls that authorized slavery, I refer you to the academic analysis of  Jeremy Watt, author of: “The Incongruous Bull: In Supremo Apostolatus” written in 2006.

(2) John Cummings III, founder of the Whitney Plantation museum in an interview with the BBC estimated each slave cost about $1000 to purchase. My population spread sheet shows the total number of slaves in 1860 in the southern states totaled 4 million. Translated into  2015 dollars, the total value of the slave population was about $116 billion dollars. Any and all appeals for abolition or talk about the immorality of slavery would fall on deaf ears – too much money was at stake and only a civil war along with President Abraham Lincoln’s wartime emancipation of the slaves would change the historical narrative.

(3) Until I created my slavery population spread sheet, I had no idea there were 396,000 slave owners in the southern states – 5% of the 1860 free population owned slaves. Not only were these 5% financially invested in slavery, they were also conditioned to accept slavery as their way of life –  neither their church, their government, their ancestors, their universities or their peers ever questioned its morality and there was nothing illegal about owning slaves as private property.

(4)  In 1860,  50% of the population in the southern states were slaves.  True, they lived mostly apart from white society but they were firmly embedded – albeit as property – in the lives of their owners.

(5)  Did any U.S. Presidents own slaves?  According to Evan Andrews, History Stories, July 19, 2017: “All told, at least 12 chief executives – over a quarter of all American presidents – were slave owners during their lifetimes. Of these, eight held slaves while in office.” George Washington (300); Thomas Jefferson (175); James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson (several dozen each); Martin Van Buren (1); William Henry Harrison (several inherited slaves); John Tyler and James K. Polk (number unknown); the last president to own slaves was Zachary Taylor (150).

(6) Not being a history buff, I have never payed much attention to memorial statues in public parks or downtown plazas or the like.  For the most part,  they portray generals on horses touting war or a conquest of some kind.  I am not much interested. But as I began my exploration of slavery – and aware of  present day university students protesting the naming of buildings and/or the campus presence of statues honoring pro-slavery benefactors – I noted the number of public memorials in each slave state that memorialized white supremacy.  Virginia leads the list with 223, followed by Texas with 178 (which surprised me) and Georgia with 174.  The sum total of these public monuments to white supremacy totaled 1,476.  Their message seems to be: yes, we lost the Civil War and the right to own slaves, but we did not lose the fight for  white supremacy, which is alive and well! 

The former mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu, led the fight to remove  four white supremacy monuments from his city: General Robert E. Lee; Confederate President, Jefferson Davis; Confederate General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard; and Battle of Liberty Place (Crescent City White League). I have devoted a chapter of Syndic No. 20 to Mitch Landrieu and his public effort to confront white supremacy.  (On a very personal note: if former Mayor Landrieu might ever decide to run for president, sign me up!)







Compiled/Published by LeRoy Chatfield
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