The visualization shows which types of “defects” different slaves possessed based on their geographic location in the United States of America between the years 1742 and 1865. The visualization is color coded by which defects appeared in the slave sales records for each state. It is broken down even further by the addition of a sliding filter that allows you to narrow down the data set in increments of 20 years. Without even looking at which types of defects were recorded in each state you can immediately begin to recognize a trend simply by moving the time slider up and down through the years. When it is at its earliest years you only notice defects in two states which reside primarily more north than south. However as you move the slider further along you begin to see more and more records of slaves with defects appearing in the southern region of the United States. This is most likely because as slave labor was more and more used by the southern states, more and more defects began to arise over time due to the severity and intensity of the labor that was required by slaves.
We can also begin to notice differences when we look at which types of defects appeared to be more common compared to defects in other states. For example, we are able to see that in the more northern states, the slaves that were listed as having defects appeared to be defects such as being old, or deaf, or as having bad character, or even being free. This is compared to a southern state such as Louisiana where not only does it contain all of the previously listed defects, but it also primarily contains physical defects that are most likely attributed to the intense labor and living conditions that they were forced to endure. These defects included things such as being burned, without fingers, one handed, hernia, broken back, and crippled. All of these types of defects appear to be far more common in the south than up north and are most likely due to the much more intensive plantation labor that is known for being located in the most southern states in the United States.
We are also able to note that some of the more northern states are not listed as having any slaves with defects until the early to mid 1800’s. This could be because the types of labor that slaves were forced to endure were not as difficult or intensive as the labor that was endured in the deep south. It is possible the punishments and the work its self was not as harsh, and because of this, slaves did not develop defects in the more northern slave states until later in the 19th century. It is also possible that perhaps slaves with defects began to appear more towards the north later in time because they were being sold with defects to the northern states. It is possible that they may have been sold simply because they possessed what some slave owners considered as a defect. It is possible that due to the nature of the work in the deep south, that slave owners in the deep south did not want to purchase slaves that already contained something that they thought was a defect, because they thought it would mean they would be less efficient at the work they would be forced to do. If this is the case, it could mean that slave owners in the deep south might not have had any choice but to sell their slaves to the more northern states because they would be willing to buy them for less money, because the defects that they possessed would not severely impede their ability to effectively complete their jobs. This theory is also supported by looking at the defects that appear in the states mentioned above such as Mississippi and Tennessee. The defects that do appear in these states are not anything that would be to physically debilitating. These are defects such as being unhealthy or sick, lame, old, or unsound. These are all “defects” that could either resolve themselves over time such as being sick, or defects that would not effect their ability to work in a serious way, given that the labor in these states were less intensive.
It is also important to note how many defects are located in each state over time. Every state contains a considerable amount more of defects when you move the slider all the way to the later dates as compared to when they first appear on the map. There is no state where the number of defects in slave records goes down or stays the same. Not only does the number of defects increase, the types of defects also becomes much more diverse. This could be because over time, the labor that the slaves endured caused more and more of them to suffer from physical injuries that took time to develop. It could also be because over time slave owners began to trade slaves as they became injured or grew older and may have had to settle for a lower price from another slave owner due to the defects.