“When Cotton Became King”


S1: Welcome to Episode 6 of the History of American Slavery a Slave Academy. I’m Jamelle Bouie, a Slate staff writer.

S2: And I’m Rebecca Onion, Slate’s history writer. Today, when Cotton became king, we’re gonna look at how the transition to a cotton economy in the early decades of the 19th century transformed the system of slavery and powerful and frightening ways as we do every time you join us.

S3: We’ll begin with the sketch of a single person’s life. Today, that person is a man named Charles Ball.

S4: Charles Ball was born sometime in the 1780s on a tobacco plantation in Calvert County, Maryland. When he was 4, the slave owner holding his family died and Ball was sold away from his mother and siblings. As a young man, he spent two years working as a cook for the U.S. Navy. His wages went to his own. In the Navy, he came up with his first plan to escape, which was foiled when he was captured and sold to a slave trader.


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