The North Carolina Railroad, industrial slavery, and the economic development of North Carolina

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Keri T. Petersen (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Watson Jennison

Abstract: During the first half of the nineteenth century, western North Carolina leaders fought a sectional political battle against an eastern-led legislature to gain political power and construct the North Carolina Railroad (NCRR) through the Piedmont. Over the course of westerners’ push for internal improvements and the successful construction of the NCRR, western leaders grew from a marginal group on the periphery of North Carolina’s economy to controlling the future trajectory of the state’s economic development. The NCRR Company’s directors and contractors employed thousands of hired slaves to construct the railroad from 1851-1856, and hundreds more to maintain and operate trains, tracks, and facilities from 1856 through the end of the Civil War. The economic benefits of the new railroad combined with the opportunity to profit from regular slave hiring, extended the benefits of slavery to all classes of North Carolina’s slaveholders, and created jobs and economic opportunities for all white North Carolinians. The enslaved men who were hired out to the NCRR performed all of the hard labor that made the NCRR a reality. Slave hire contracts between masters and the company ripped these men away from their home farms and plantations, and sentenced them to a brutal existence in the NCRR’s labor camps—a place void of slave families and communities, and characterized by inadequate food, shelter, clothing, and medical attention.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Industry, North Carolina, Politics, Railroad, Slavery, Transportation
North Carolina Railroad Company $x History $y 19th century
Railroads $z North Carolina $x History $y 19th century
North Carolina $x Politics and government $y 19th century
North Carolina $x Economic conditions $y 19th century
Slavery $x Economic aspects $z North Carolina $x History $y 19th century
Slaves $x Employment $z North Carolina $x History $y 19th century
Slave labor $z North Carolina $x History $y 19th century
Slavery $z North Carolina $x History $y 19th century

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