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Non-black slavery in North Georgia
About North Georgia

I am interested in doing further study relative to White Slavery in not only Georgia, but other states as well. You state that in North Georgia at the time of the Civil War, or thereabouts, approximately 7% of white males owned slaves, and that some of the slaves were not black or Indian. Do you have any reference to such information to which you can direct me? Were the white slaves and Indians indentured for life, or only a specific period of time short of life? Were their off spring born into slavery as well?

W.J. Roberts

W.J.

Let me start off by saying that we are talking about a relatively small number of people living in North Georgia prior to the Civil War.

As you research this subject, you will find that the percentage of blacks increased gradually over the time period, although if you discount the major population centers the increase is significantly less.

The first clue I had was from the Dean Rusk family cemetery in southeast Cherokee County. I made reference to a grave marked with a stone being a slave's grave, and they agreed, pointing out that the Rusk family only had "Indian slaves". Further research, including Coleman's A History of Georgia, references this. My old friend Bobby McElwee, who headed the Barnsley Gardens history area for years, and then ran the Rome Area History Museum confirmed it. Now the hunt was on! Once my eyes had been opened, it started to become more obvious.

Many Cherokee began to serve as slaves in 1838 to avoid the Trail of Tears. Economic conditions were pretty bad then, getting worse through 1842, then leveling off. Poorer whites, mostly Scottish and Irish would offer to work as servants and field hands to feed their family. It was quite a bit different for the Scots and Irish. It was not permanent indentured servitude (there was no term of service) and there appears to be a somewhat free flow of whites (not Cherokee) into and out of servitude (some people call this group slaves, while others, probably correctly, object applying the term slave to this group of people because it was not permanent.) As economic conditions improved in the 1850's, there were significantly less whites.

The oppressive laws applied to black slaves were not applied to white servants/field hands, and the Cherokee appear to fall somewhere in between the two. For whites, learning was allowed, and religion was accepted. Issue was recognized.


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