American Enterprise: The Business of Slavery

Learn more about the business of slavery by exploring four historic documents from the United States slave trade. Four primary source documents showing slavery as a business in America: Insurance Document, Tax Receipt, Bill of Sale, and a Ship’s Manifest.

Source Smithsonian National Museum of American History
Dates and Eras Antebellum
Themes Slavery, African Americans
Standards USI.8, USI.9, VUS.6


Suggested Questions

  1. In what ways did Northern businesses uphold and support the domestic trade of slaves in America?
  2. Why did the domestic slave trade expand in the South in the 1800s?
  3. What factors may have caused people to be against the American Colonization Society?
  4. Why might abolitionists have been against the American Colonization Society?
  5. How was Southern infrastructure and order reliant on slavery?
  6. What are examples of different measures slaveholders took to ensure they were making a profit off of slavery?