Slave breeding was a practice that occurred in the antebellum United States, in which slave owners would breed enslaved Africans for the purpose of increasing their economic value as property. This practice had significant implications for the black race, as it served to perpetuate the institution of slavery and perpetuated the idea that black people were inferior and subhuman.
The couple of years following the prohibition of slave importation into the US was an era of slave farming. After 1808, slave labor was a scarce commodity in the United States. It was a period that heralded the collapse of a highly lucrative business where the stock traded were humans whose lives were as perishable as autumn leaves. But the slave owners were good businessmen. They knew that no business survives with borders closed on supplies. These slavepreneurs did what every good business man would do, they found an alternative means of supply – slave breeding.
Slave breeding was a slave multiplication agenda. It was implemented by slave owners through a forced sexual relation between the male and female slaves and between masters and their female slaves. This sexual relation was solely intended to result in pregnancies to reproduce slave children as essential stock for trade. The motive was entirely profit-oriented. The slave owners ensured that where force didn’t work, they encouraged this procreation by favoring the female slaves who had more children. In some cases, freedom was promised to those who could produce as much as fifteen slave children.
Notably, slave breeding bypassed the experimental level and went straight to a highly structured business strategy. Slave girls were expected to start reproducing from the age of thirteen and should have five children at least by the age of twenty.
Slave owners bred slaves for specific physical characteristics that they believed would make them more valuable as workers. For example, they would breed slaves who were tall and strong for field work, and those who were smaller and more agile for tasks such as housework.
The slaves who managed to escape before the American civil war, testified to their experience in books that became the literary genre known as the slave narratives. These books recorded stories of slaves forced into marriages and compelled into sexual relations with their male counterparts. They recorded the sexual abuse of female slaves by their masters and overseers.
A good example is the testimony of Maggie Stenhouse, an ex-slave. In her words, “Durin’ slavery there were stockmen. They was weighed and tested. A man would rent the stockman and put him in a room with some young women he wanted to raise children from.”
Margie’s testimony expressly showed how slave owners were uncompromisingly meticulous about slave breeding. Like livestock, these slave breeders knew the role of biology in producing the healthiest stock. Like good farmers fortuned with fertile ground, the slave owners knew to select the best stock of seeds to plant.
The implications of slave breeding on the black race were severe. For enslaved people, breeding often meant being forced to have sexual relations with other enslaved people, often against their will. This not only violated their basic human rights, but also resulted in many children being born into slavery. Many of these children were then sold away from their parents, further tearing families apart and causing emotional trauma for enslaved people.
Moreover, the practice of slave breeding perpetuated the idea that black people were inferior and less human than white people. It was believed that black people were more suited to physical labor and were less intelligent than white people, and this belief was used to justify the institution of slavery. As a result, black people were viewed as nothing more than property, and their value was determined solely by their ability to work and reproduce.
The practice of slave breeding in the antebellum United States came to an end with the abolition of slavery following the Civil War. In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all enslaved people in Confederate states to be free. This was followed by the passage of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1865, which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude throughout the United States.
The end of slavery also brought an end to the practice of slave breeding, as enslaved people were no longer considered property and were no longer subject to the control of their owners. Many formerly enslaved people left the plantations where they had been held and began to rebuild their lives as free citizens.
Note: The terms Slave farming and Slavepreneur, as used in this article, are the writer’s made-up words to bring the description of Slave Breeding as close to what it was as possible.