Slavery in the Hemp Industry


Slavery in the Hemp Industry - History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky

The following is excerpted from A History of the Hemp Industry in Kentucky (Lexington: University of Kentucky, 1951), pp. 4, 24-30, 132-40, 196.


James F. Hopkins

... Without hemp, slavery might not have flourished in Kentucky, since other agricultural products of the state were not conducive to the extensive use of bondsmen. On the hemp farm and in the hemp factories the need for laborers was filled to a large extent by the use of Negro slaves, and it is a significant fact that the heaviest concentration of slavery was in the hemp producing area. Perhaps the nearest approach in Kentucky to the plantation on the southern scale was the large Bluegrass farm upon which hemp was one of the major crops and where virtually all manual labor was performed by slaves. On the other hand, since hemp does not require as much attention as must be given to cotton, the number of Negroes on a Kentucky farm was usually far less than the number necessary on a cotton plantation of comparable size. Consequently, owing to their high birth rate, the slaves increased faster than they were needed. Sale of surplus blacks to the lower South brought welcome revenue to Kentucky and led to the unwelcome charge that peopled
in the state were engaged in the breeding of Negroes for market.