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An industrial slave is a type of slave who typically worked in an industrial setting. These slaves often had work that was more dangerous than agricultural slaves.

United States

In the antebellum United States, industrial slaves were often the property of a company instead of an individual.[1] These companies spanned various industries including sawmills, cotton gins and mills, fishing, steamboats, sugar refineries, coal and gold mining, and railroads.[2]

Industrial slaves were exposed to many dangerous jobs in factories. Most of the machinery and tools were very new and the simplest mistake could mean the loss of a hand, foot, or even death. Industrial slaves worked twelve hours per day, six days per week. The only breaks they received were for a short lunch during the day, and Sunday or the occasional holiday during the week. Not many of the slaves had to endure working every day the whole year around, however.[citation needed]

Industrial slaves gave a great advantage to those companies that owned them. The companies boosted their annual profits by 6 to 42 per cent.[citation needed] The use of industrial slaves sometimes allowed a bankrupt company to be resurrected: "The Woodville mill, which went bankrupt with free labor, annually paid 10 to 15 per cent dividends after switching to slave labor".[3]


  1. "Slavery in Ante-Bellum Southern Industries". The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. 1999. Retrieved 2007-10-29.
  2. "Railroad and Canal Construction Industries and Other Trades and Industries". Series C: Selections from the Virginia Historical Society. University Publications of America. 1997.
  3. Starobin, Robert S. (1970). Industrial Slavery in the Old South. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195001136.
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