Data Description: Slave Sales 1775-1885

For my final project I decided to discuss the slave sales between 1775-1885. While working on this project, I noticed several correlations as well as other factors that I hadn’t thought of before. My data for this project is a combination of numeric, textual, as well as geographic data. The numeric perspective of the data stems from the appraised value that the slaves are given in the data set. Another way that numeric data is used in this data set are the years. There is a gradual increase in the years from 1775 all the way to 1885. In addition to the years throughout slavery there is a date of entry and age groups of the slaves are included in the data. On the textual aspect of the data set there is an abundance of information that is conveyed through the text. There are text data on the sheet such as gender of the slaves, any defects that these slaves may or may not have, and any skills that some of these slaves may or may not posses. An example of the text data portion of the sheet would be something like “Deaf” or ” house servant” that is included on the data sheet. And the last aspect of data conveyed on the data sheet is geographic portion. The way that the data sheet puts this information out is through the locations in the United States that the slaves are residing in and where they are working at. The geography portion of the data from the sheet is the smallest data set of the three. The geography only has two sets; State and county. Despite only geography having two sets, it is involved in most of the visual sheets within the project. The columns in the data set mostly consists of slave gender, state code, age, skills, and date entry. The gender is the sex of each slave that is accounted for within the data provided. A popular trend between sex and value is heavily noted in the data set. Perhaps the biggest relationship between sex and value that someone with little prior knowledge can infer would be that the male slaves would be appraised at a higher amount than their female counterparts. The state code is which state in which whom the slaves belong to while the county is which part of that state the slaves belong to. There are an array of states that are included in the data sheet. The states range from those states that are deep south to those that are more up north border lining slave state and free state. The age column consists of the different age ranges between the slaves. The skills portion of the columns are used to state if the slaves have a special skill which may add to their value. Lastly the date of entry are the dates that have been recorded in which the slaves are enslaved or born. The rows are mostly made up of the average appraisal value of the slaves. Sometimes the row would include one of the options that are in the columns as well.

2 data visualizations 

For my first visual, I have chosen to use the data that I created using the skills and values of the slaves depending on what state that they live in. The story told in this data visual is how much of an asset that these slaves were to the productivity of not only the states in the south, but to the United States as a whole and therefore made how much they were considered to be worth increased based on said skills. Each of these states in the south had different appraisal value of their slaves depending on what skills that the slaves had. Some of these skills were more challenging than others such as a slave with the “construction” skill will be at a higher appraisal value than a “cigar maker”. It’s only natural that the slaves who are more diverse in the jobs they can do and the level of difficulty of the job makes them worth a little more than their counterparts who aren’t as well rounded or who don’t have any skills that can be deemed as challenging. An observation that I made in the data set is that the states of Louisiana and Mississippi have the highest appraisal value of there slaves each skill category that they are in. When the states of Louisiana and Mississippi where in the same category, the state of Mississippi had a higher appraisal value than Louisiana. Perhaps the reason that the states of Mississippi and Louisiana have their slaves at a much higher value than the other states is because there was a heavy reliance in these slaves and their challenging skills that they possessed. These two states are known for their giant plantations and needed the man power to keep them up and running successfully. The slaves who can do the challenging task such as “construction”, “blacksmith” and “carpenter or cabinet maker” are viewed as a bigger asset to the slave owners and the well being of the plantation as a whole. Unlike Mississippi however, Louisiana has slaves of every skill set. With this observation, the state of Louisiana has the biggest diversity of slaves with skills. Louisiana finds it necessary to have slaves of every skill set because they may find it important to keep their economy up and running. The state of Maryland however is comprised of slaves that posses easier skills such as “Butler” and “house servant” . With slaves who posses these skills, Maryland has them set at a lower value since the skills aren’t as desirable. States such as Maryland that are located more towards the north perhaps didn’t need the same slaves that their southern counterparts needed as far as skills are concerned.  The northern states aren’t going to need slaves with the skill set of “field worker” since there aren’t any plantations in the slave states that are more up north like the ones located in the south. The slaves located more to the northern states appear to have skill sets that are more like “chores” as opposed to hard labor.

For the second visual that I decided to go with is the average sale appraisal of slaves. What I did with this visualization is separate the slaves by sex as well as what state that each sex resided in. As expected, the male slaves are valued at a much higher price than the female slaves on average. The male slaves were valued at almost a hundred dollars more than the female slaves were valued at by most of the states that were included in the data sheet. One thing that I found that was surprising while looking through the data was that female slaves are held at an higher appraisal value than male slaves in one state. while doing this project I didn’t expect to see female slaves being valued more than male slaves at all. The one state that female slaves are valued more is South Carolina. Not only are the female slaves valued more in this state than the males but they are also more by a significant amount. The female slaves in South Carolina are well over a hundred dollars more than the male slaves. This could be due to the fact that there isn’t as many labor inducing jobs in this state. Another factor for this higher appraisal could be a scarcity of female slaves in this state for some unknown reason.  As far as male appraisal goes, it should come as no surprise that the state of Mississippi has the higher appraisal of male slaves. It is a known fact that Mississippi is one of the two plantation giants of the south during this time frame along with the state of Louisiana. As depicted on the visualization on top, these two states are diverse in the skill sets of their slaves as well as having slaves that can perform difficult tasks which reflect the appraisal value of these slaves. But what I also found was that Mississippi also has the highest appraisal value of female slaves as well. Mississippi relied heavy on slaves so this can be he reason why they are valued so much.  Another finding in the data sheet that I observed was the low appraisal rate of both male and female slaves that the state of Maryland has. Again, as depicted in the visualization above the low appraisal rate of slaves in Maryland shouldn’t be surprising. The state of Maryland has a slave appraisal value under two hundred dollars. The story of Maryland seems pretty straight forward and simple. Maryland didn’t own any plantations or any fields that required slaves to be in and maintain; but what Maryland did have was wealthy white people who would purchase these slaves to perform the task and daily chores that they themselves didn’t want to do such as gardening or household chores. Maryland doesn’t need slaves that are as skillful as those that are located more towards the south which explains for the low appraisal. It seems to me that the state of Maryland has slaves just because it is legal to have them and do not rely heavily on them and they seemed more as a luxury.




Process documentation 

In order to make my visualizations I had to take a few different approaches. Some methods were more effective at conveying the information than others. I didn’t want to focus on one particular style of visualization because I felt that it would bore the reader and therefore the overall message that I’m trying to put out will get lost. I used several different kinds of graphs and charts in my final project but I’m going to focus on the two prominent methods that appear more frequent than the others. The two that I’m going to focus on are the bar graphs and line graphs. The first visualization type that I chose to use was the simple bar graph. I believe the bar graph is one of the best methods in showing data. It’s simple to read and easy to create. I use the bar graph to compare several factors such as differences in sexes between the slaves in the data set, the appraisal value of the slaves as well as what state or counties these slaves reside in, and that’s only in the first appearance of the bar graph.

Another variation of the bar graph that I used was the stacked bar graph. Slightly odd at first but turned out to be very effective. With this graph I was able to compare the skills of each slaves and determine an average value of them by location. The stacked bar graph option made it easier to display this information than another visual type may have been. In regards to what color of the bar graphs I chose and decide to use depends on the information from the data sheet that I plan on highlighting. For the ” Slave appraisal” data chart I decided to go with black with the intentions to have the reader notice the color of these enslaved men and women looking at the prices that they were being auctioned off. For the “skills & values by state” it may be hard to read at first glance because there are so many colors but it gets easy to understand after a minute. I used multiple colors because there is more information that has to be displayed. The skills are color coated by state to and the skills are located on the X-axis. The bar graph may be the best method for comparing data that I have ever used. The stacked bar graph helps argue that slaves are appraised differently based on sex as well as skill and location.



The causation of the appraisal for female and male slaves in the slave data is the high demand for slaves between 1775 and 1885 due to the economic opportunity that the southern states had at the time in which were created through the means of producing goods such as cotton and tobacco. Slaves have fluctuated in value over that hundred year span, mostly increasing in value as the years went on. It has become an ordinary way of living for those in the south to own slaves and benefit from their free labor. As the popularity of owning slaves grew, so did their value. In the beginning of the years in which the data was recorded, having slaves was legal and a way of life for the white men which mainly were located in the south. It is a pretty known fact that tobacco plants as well as other jobs were located in the southern states and that they took a lot of labor to maintain. With the legality of slaves, those who were able to afford slaves bought as many as they could to do these jobs that required an abundance of labor. The appraisal value of male slaves are more than that of female slaves. This is caused due to the amount of labor as well as type of labor that male slaves can do that female slaves can’t physically do. Females don’t have the same body type or muscle mass that males do, therefore they are more limited to the work they can do. Male slaves also tend to be more skillful with their hands and can do jobs such as being a blacksmiths while women who are skillful will most likely do the jobs such as basket making and other simple jobs. While males are doing more physical labor out in the field or blacksmith work, female slaves can do less physical work such as watching children, making items such as baskets, and other activities. With that being said, their value isn’t going to be as high because that labor isn’t as intense or challenging and isn’t as profitable as the males line of work is overall. It is pretty standard that all male slaves will be worth more money than their female counterparts. The direct causation of the value difference between the male and female values seems to be due solely to their potential productivity and how much money they can bring in.

An argument that can be noted from the data set that may come as a surprise to some people is the average price of slaves throughout time. Most people will automatically assume that as the years go by that the value in slaves only increases until it is abolished in the 1860’s. According to the data however, the value trend with slaves throughout time haven’t been as consistent as some people may think. The trend of slave values started at a decent number and then proceeded to decrease in value before picking back up. It isn’t clear why the value of slaves decreased during this time but it can be argued that the causation for the slaves to steadily increase in value after it’s descent can be caused by the growing popularity of slaves. As the years went by, news of how effective the slaves were could have been spread throughout the south. The businesses started to thrive and become more successful than they may have been previously. It is noted that the value of slaves really started to get high in price in the 1800’s. The causation of this spike can be credited to the industrial revolution. The south was a big manufacturer of goods during this time period and provided these goods to the northern states; states in which slaves were outlawed. With the slaves providing free labor, the south was able to benefit exponentially. This of course made the south even more wealthy and this in turn caused the appraisal of slaves to increase since they were viewed as a great asset to the owner of the plantations and manufacturers of goods. Even though the value of slaves were at a higher average than it was previously, the value of slaves still drop in price certain years before increasing again. This trend of erratic values continues throughout the decades. The causation for this trend is unknown and there aren’t any signs that may explain why. The value of slaves however hits its peak in 1864 in which is a time in American history when the civil war was taking place. The average appraisal price for the slaves during this time period was over a staggering 1000 dollars. The price of slaves during the time of the civil war jumped up by over three hundred dollars.  The reason for this insanely high price can be argued to be a direct result of the civil war that was happening at this time. Since one of the main reasons of the civil war was over the liberation of slaves, this caused the value of the slaves to soar to new heights. This is the highest value that slaves have been since the data has been recorded. It can be inferred that slave owners were attempting to get top dollar for their slaves at this time since the possibility of slaves being outlawed all together was in the minds of the owners during the time of war if the south suffered defeat to the north. Slave owners figured that it was the best time to increase the value of their slaves in order to have some type of monetary gain in case the south lost the war. In the year 1885, the value of slaves appears to begin its plummet at a fast rate. This is a direct causation of the south losing the civil war to the north which resulted in the outlawing of slaves. Since having slaves were illegal, there was no longer an appraisal value on the now former slaves.

Further research questions 

The research conducted within the project brought about some research questions that may have not been thought about before hand.  One research question that was a result of the first visualization “Slave appraisal” would be since male slaves are worth more than female slaves, are they treated less harshly than female slaves; or is there no difference between the treatment of the slaves.  Perhaps the best way to go about answering this research question would be an attempt to find pictures as well as any documented treatment of both male and female slaves during the time of the census.

For the second visual “Skills & values by state” I learned a few new things and thought of some questions that this visualization forced me to think about. Before this project I had no idea that slaves had any skills. Before this data set I was under the misconception that all slaves did was pick cotton and serve as butlers ( for the lighter shade slaves). But according to the data there are an array of skills that these slaves possessed. But what exactly did these slaves do with their skills? For example, what did a slave with the skill of “construction” build? Do the slaves with the same skills work with each other or do they work on separate projects individually?  Trying to get answers for this research question may be a little challenging. It is unsure if any documents of what the slaves build will be recorded since slaves are generally viewed as “dumb”. During this time frame I find it unlikely that slaves would be credited with anything they have done.

My last visualization “AVG of slaves throughout the years” may be the most intriguing and thought provoking visual that I have used from the data set out of all the charts and graphs that I made. The reason I believe this to be the most interesting visual is due to the inconsistency of the data on the graph. This phenomena prompts several research questions due to the vast inconsistencies. One research question for this graph would be “Why doesn’t the price of slaves only increase since slaves were so widely used during this time period?” It seems a little strange that the price in slaves has periods in which it decreases in price before making it’s way back up. Several other research questions are “What causes these prices to drop?” “What was the cause for the prices of these slaves to increase again?” Just to focus on one year specifically for example purposes, the year “1783” increased dramatically from the previous year by well over a hundred dollars. But then the very next year the average value of slaves drops severely all the way to about sixty dollars. To go about answering these research I would have to visit a library or database hat has records of what may have occurred during this time span. Then focus more specifically on the year in which the data makes a dramatic change and see if there is any correlation within Americas history and the decrease or increase in the value of slaves within that year.