This Infamous Invention Turned Slavery Into A Super-Profitable Business

cotton field
L. Graciella Maiolatesi
May 5, 2022

In 1794 Eli Whitney, a greedy Northerner, invented his infamous “cotton gin.” Before the gin, an enslaved person could produce about 10 pounds of cotton per day. Afterwards, they could produce 10 times as much!

Cotton became America’s “King Crop,” and we paid royally for it. To be real, we’re still paying for it.

Ironically, the gin was meant to increase cotton production while DECREASING the need for enslavement. But the opposite happened! It made the crop so profitable, America was soon producing three-quarters of the world’s cotton.

In the 14 years between the gin’s invention and 1808, when the slave trade was made illegal, 80,000 more Africans were kidnapped and brought to America – which went from having six “slave states” to fifteen, and doomed millions of Black people to enslavement for generations.

In 1860, one-third of America’s Southern population was enslaved. Americans weren’t the only ones benefiting either – globally, 1 out of every 65 people were involved in the cotton industry! 

After emancipation, there was a world-wide cotton shortage. But sharecropping was soon established, and Europe also brought the cotton industry to Africa to further exploit our people there.

While slavery is now illegal, the dehumanizing capitalism it essentially created isn’t.

Enslaved Africans were worked to the death to make white people profit, and too many of us today suffer the same fate in different ways.

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