The occupational structure of Southern plantations during the late antebellum era

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Economics | History | Social and Behavioral Sciences | United States History


"The occupational structure of slave labor on plantations yields valuable insights to the economic organization and operations of these large-scale antebellum agricultural businesses. By conveying information about the allocation of slave labor among plantation activities, the occupational structure is direct evidence of the nature and extent of the specialization of labor on plantations. This specialization of labor and the variety of occupations and skills held by plantation slaves has long been noted, but relatively little systematic evidence and empirical analysis of the plantation occupational structure has been provided. This paper presents and analyzes evidence of the plantation slave occupational structure in the late antebellum era from a sample of sixty-eight lists from plantation and probate records[;] the lists pertain to sixty plantations with 4,425 slaves living on them at the time the lists were constructed." (page 137)