Enslaved Population in Virginia
The number of slaves in Virginia on the eve of the Civil War is detailed in this map based on the census figures of 1860. (The 1860 federal census contained 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 slaves it contained. A breakdown of the precise numbers of whites and slaves 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 slaves at 74 percent (6,468 slaves and 2,270 whites). Albemarle, with Charlottesville as its county seat, had a population of roughly 14,000 slaves and 12,000 whites. In contrast, Hancock County, in the extreme northwestern end of the state, counted only two slaves amid a white population of 4,442. This map helps visualize the reality of slavery in Virginia: the economy of the eastern part of the state, which was largely based on agriculture, had the highest percentage of slaves, while the mountain areas to the west, which depended more on industry and free labor, had fewer slaves.
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 based on figures from the 1860 census—this one concerning Virginia, and another one showing the concentration of slaves in the entire South. Both of the slave maps became powerful pro-Union propaganda tools. This map was published in Washington, D.C., on June 13, 1861, two months after the war had begun, and, as noted on the bottom left, was "Sold for the benefit of the sick and wounded of the U.S. Army."