These maps represent enslaved migration across county boundaries within and out of Virginia, decade by decade, 1790-1860. Red shades represent out-migration; blues represent in-migration. The maps on the left represent rates; on right are net numbers. The key is at the bottom. Note that in western Virginia, the rates were sometimes very high when the actual numbers were relatively low. (See Methods.)

While planters and traders moved thousands of slaves out of the tidewater and into  piedmont and western counties, the state as a whole was already a net “exporter” to other states, as Virginia planters turned to corn and wheat, which required far fewer laborers than tobacco:

RATE790 NET1790_1800

Piedmont and northern Virginia counties, too, became net “exporters” to other states:

RATE800 NET1800_1810

The “export” market expands further west, and some tidewater counties see an actual drop in the slave population, indicating very high rates of forced removal.

RATE810 NET1810_1820

The pattern largely continues. Note that the exodus from northwestern counties may also represent escape across the Ohio River, while salt mining operations in the Kanawha River valley continued to demand new enslaved labor:

RATE820 NET1820_1830

The vast expansion of cotton and sugar in the deep south created a speculative bubble that drove slave prices up and slave traders into virtually every county, with planters everywhere looking to cash in:

RATE830 NET1830_1840

The bubble bursts in the Panic of 1837, but Virginia’s forced out-migration continues, even amidst a tobacco revival in the southern piedmont.

RATE840 NET1840_1850

Numbers remained high (over 80,000), with western counties now emptying out, perhaps as much due to escape as to the slave trade.

RATE850 NET1850-1860


Key_Rate                                    Key_Net

See Methods.

All maps copyright 2017 © Phillip Troutman. Unmodified not-for-profit usage is freely granted with acknowledgement. Cite as: Phillip Troutman,”Mapping Virginia’s Slave Trade, 1790-1860,” Virginia’s Slave Trade blog, (your access date).


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