Sample History Paper on Agriculture, Slavery and Cotton

Cotton is one of the most economically beneficial plants commonly used as natural fabric. During the ancient times, cotton plant was popularly referred to as ‘The fabric of our lives’ as it was used for clothing and household furnishings. Cotton farming became a more popular form of cash crop farming during the period of industrial revolution when textile mills were being established in European countries. The rapidly growing demand of cotton plant led to a sudden economic bloom in the United States which was widely recognized for cotton farming. This opportunity drove both large scale and small scale farmers to Arkansas and other parts of the Southern territories which were characterized with semitropical weather and fertile soils that supported high productivity of cotton crop.

Cotton Culture

During the ancient days, Arkansas was greatly renowned for tobacco farming and production. However, in the year 1790s, the market demand for tobacco products immensely declined leading to a halt in tobacco farming (Fite 3). The slaves who had been working in many tobacco plantations were required no more. However, cotton became tobacco’s best alternative crop following Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in the year 1793 (McNeilly 9). Spurred by the high financial returns, Southern states residents began to embrace the practice of cotton farming which ultimately transformed the state’s economy.  The era of ‘Cotton Kingdom’ resulted to an increase in the incidence of slave trade as slaves were relied as sources of affordable labor (Fite 19).

How the cotton culture shaped Arkansas

Cotton farming has played an integral role in shaping Arkansas. During the traditional days, the population of farmers made up to 90% of the entire Arkansas population. Arkansas was populated with a large number of landowners who relied on farming as their sole source of income. The outstanding geographical location, climatic conditions, and fertile soils made Arkansas to be one of the largest agricultural regions in United States. The surrounding Mississippi River Valley not only provided water but also fine fertile soils that supported high production and yield of cotton plant. Cotton farming also drew many white settlers who also anticipated reaping from cotton farming business. Cotton farming proliferated in specific areas namely; east of the Mississippi River, Florida parishes, the Red River bottoms above Alexandria and in the north-eastern corner of the State (McNeilly 43).

Slavery in Arkansas

Cotton farming is usually labor intensive and time consuming. It is for this profound reason that most planters chose to recruit slaves who performed an array of tasks such as; planting, tilling, harvesting, and picking the cotton products. As the cotton economy grew speedily, so did the number of slaves working within the cotton plantations also unprecedentedly rose up. It became a norm for black slaves to tirelessly work in large acres of cotton land. Aside from relying on cotton farming as their major source of income, Arkansas residents depended on captive workers who were a source of free labor.  Cotton farming in Arkansas was thus largely associated with inhumane treatment and suppression of human freedom. Cotton plantations were viewed as labor camps where black labor was exploited for the profits of growing cotton, the ‘white gold’ (McNeilly 43). During the civil war, Arkansas became recognized as the ‘Cotton Kingdom’ due to the abundant cotton plantations. The population of slaves working in cotton farms increased rapidly as the farm owners used the high returns to feed, house, and clothe the slaves. Thus, the blooming demand for cotton rejuvenated the return of slave trade.

How the end of civil war affected Arkansas

The end of the Civil war marked a national crisis for Arkansas. This end of the civil war marked the beginning of Abraham Lincoln’s reign as the President. His commitment to end slave trade led to the implementation of a law that prohibited acts of slavery (Fite 21). This greatly affected the cotton farmers who had relied on slaves as laborers in the large cotton plantations. This crisis resulted to the decline in slave trade which ultimately led to a significant reduction in cotton production and yield.


McNeilly, Donald P. Old South Frontier: Cotton Plantations and the Formation of Arkansas Society (c). University of Arkansas Press, 2000.

Fite, Gilbert C. Cotton fields no more: Southern agriculture, 1865-1980. University Press of Kentucky, 2015.