Plantation Life

A plantation is a word that is used to describe a large farm, and this was a place that colonies used to force slaves into labor.

What Was on a Plantation?

A plantation had different crops such as cotton, sugar, tobacco, rice and other crops.

Most of the crops were planted in order to do a large amount of growing.  Larger plantations were up to 1,000 acres and each acre could produce more than 5,000 plants and crops.

Plantations in Colonial South

Agriculture was such an important thing.  It was during the Colonial times and in the Southern colonies that plantations were most seen.  Many of these were found in North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina and Georgia.

The reason that there were so many plantations in the south was that the climate was much better for growing things and that made planting crops much easier.

Why Plant in the South?

The Southern colonies were way better for growing things because they had soil that was much more fertile.  Since there were swamps and rivers along the way, it made the plains and the forests places that could grow many crops.

The climate was much better than in the north and the winters were usually very mild, and the summers were humid and so crops could grow all year around.

The Southern colonies usually would concentrate on a few crops that they would grow and some of the most important crops in the south were tobacco, rice, sugar cane, cotton and indigo.

Cash Crops

There were many cash crops such as sugar cane, indigo, rice, cotton, tobacco and other crops that were grown by farmers and then they were either used for their own families or they were sold or traded so that they could make money.

Farmers were able to transport and export their crops because most of the Southern colonies were found on the waterways and so the ships could go on the ocean and to the places of trade.


Plantations were hard to upkeep and so they required a lot of workers.  Since there were never enough farmers or workers, farmers turned to slavery in order to help have a bigger work force.

Southern plantations would work thousands of slaves and when the crops were larger and the harvest period was longer, the plantations would have even more slaves working.

The slaves did not use animals or machinery and most of the land was cleared for planting by hand.  Since slave labor was so cheap, having slaves made owning a plantation profitable which means that they were able to make a lot of money from having slaves working on the plantations.

Men and women slaves worked hours a day, sometimes even up to eighteen hours and this caused the slaves to save the plantation owners money.

When new slaves were born on the plantation, when they got older, they would work on the plantation and this was as if the master would gain a free slave.

Housing of Slaves

Even though the plantation owners were quite wealthy, the slaves did not have a nice home to live in.  Most of the slaves lived in a one or two room home that had wooden cabinets and dirt floors.

Facts About Plantation Life:

  • Slaves on plantations were always watched closely because the slave owners always feared that they would take over the home of the master.
  • Plantation owners only wanted to make money.
  • Human labor was considered cheap and the slaves were usually not treated very well.
  • At the beginning of the colonies, there were no slave laws.
  • Slavery replaced indentured servants.
  • The first cash crop was tobacco and there were many plantations that grew tobacco and since start up costs were so expensive; the farmers would purchase more slaves to save them money in the long run.

What Did You Learn?

What was a plantation?
A plantation is a large farm.

Who worked on the plantation?
The farmer would work on the plantation but most of the time a plantation was as place for human labor.

What is meant by human labor?
Human labor usually meant indentured servants or slaves.

What replaced indentured servants?
Slaves replaced indentured servants because they were cheaper and did not have to have land after they finished their years of work.  Most slaves were not offered a certain time or a freedom date.

Who owned more plantations, the North or the South?
The Southern colonies had more plantations because they had better soil, water sources, a place to trade and the weather was much more mild than in the North.