"Cotton Pressing in Louisiana," Ballou's Magazine, April 12, 1856

Slave Labor

Southern plantations relied upon slave labor to produce cotton, America’s largest cash crop during the mid-nineteenth century. In this illustration, a white overseer directs slaves processing freshly picked cotton into bales for shipment to distant markets. The use of mechanical gins and presses made large production possible. Lincoln believed that blacks had the right to the fruits of their own labor but he did not consider them socially or politically equal to whites.