The Cotton Kingdom
The creator of this map, Edward Atkinson, was a free labor advocate and cotton manufacturer from Boston. Here, Atkinson estimated the high cost of purchasing and maintaining slaves, including allowances for life insurance; an overseer’s wages, houses, and provisions; doctors’ fees, hospitals, and medicine; renewal and repairs of slave quarters; clothing and food. The texts and tables bordering the map document concentrations of slaves per square mile, the output of their labor, and the output of their free labor counterparts.
Northern readers’ understanding of the cotton economy and the prospects for cotton grown by free laborers would have been shaped by illustrations such as “Our Cotton Campaign in South Carolina,” which shows slaves laboring for wages under supervision of the US Army. In several of the vignettes, African American men and women appear to be the only ones to actually handle the crop, as they plant, hoe, pick, whip, mote, and load the confiscated yield of area plantations.