Enslaved Population in Virginia
Original Author: E. Hergesheimer, mapmaker; C. B. Graham, lithographer
Created: 1861
Medium: Lithographed map
Publisher: Library of Virginia

Enslaved Population in Virginia

The number of enslaved people in Virginia on the eve of the Civil War is detailed in this map based on the U.S. Census figures of 1860, which was the last official count of enslaved African Americans in the United States. The map, created by the United States Coast Survey, made use of shading to indicate the density of the slave population in each county—the darker the county, the more enslaved people it contained. A breakdown of the precise numbers of whites and enslaved people in each county, as well as the percentage of the population that was enslaved, is shown in the table at left.

In 39 of 148 counties at least half the population was enslaved. Nottaway County had the highest percentage of enslaved people at 74 percent. In contrast, Hancock County, in the extreme northwestern end of the state, counted only two slaves amid a white population of 4,442.

The Coast Survey, created in 1807 to chart American coasts and harbors, had expanded its scientific studies under the leadership of its superintendent, Alexander Dalles Bache, who took over in 1843. Under Bache, two maps charting slavery were produced: this one concerning Virginia and another one showing the concentration of ensalved people in the entire South. Both became powerful pro-Union propaganda tools.