Industrial slavery in the United States: the North Carolina turpentine industry 1849–61

The operation of the North Carolina turpentine industry in the late Antebellum period (1849–61) depended upon labour supplied by slaves who were either owned or hired. The nature of the work, which covered thousands of acres of forestland, led to the use of a task system whereby each slave was assigned a large tract of forest that was worked with little supervision over several months. An important finding is the content and significance of the production records for the slaves assigned to these long-term tasks. The slaves, like those in other industries and on plantations, could earn a certain amount of money for themselves by taking on extra chores. Details of those payments appear in these records. The conditions of life, including food, clothing, and the forest environment are reconstructed where possible. The records raise some questions about the relationship between the payments, extra work and slave behaviour which however, remain unanswered.