The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973

Human Property: The Negro Slave in Harrison
County, 1850-1860
microcosm of the Negro slave's role in antebellum Texas society.
The federal censuses of 1850 and 186o reported a larger population for
this East Texas county than for any other in the state. There were 599
slaveholders in 1850 and 650 in 186o which meant that in both census
years approximately 60 percent of Harrison's white families owned at
least one slave. There were 6,19o slaves reported in the first federal
census of Harrison County taken in 1850. Ten years later the number
stood at 8,726, an increase of 41 percent during the decade before the
Civil War. Negro slaves made up 52 percent of the county's total popu-
lation of 11,822 in 185o and 58 percent of the 15,001 people living
there in 1860.1
Thus a majority of antebellum Harrison County's free families were
slaveholders and a majority of its population were black slaves. This
situation was not typical of either Texas or the South in the 1850's.
Only 29 percent of families in the Lone Star State and 25 percent of all
southern families held slaves in 1860. In the same year, slaves composed
30 percent of Texas's population and 32 percent of the population of
* An associate professor of history at North Texas State University, Mr. Campbell is a
frequent contributor to the Quarterly.
1 Statistics on slaveholders and slaves were compiled from microfilmed manuscript returns
of the Seventh Census of the United States, 1850, Schedule i, Free Inhabitants, and Sched-
ule 2, Slave Inhabitants; and the Eighth Census of the United States, 186o, Schedules 1
and 2. Hereinafter these manuscript returns on microfilm will be cited as Seventh Census,
185o, and Eighth Census, 186o, with appropriate schedule numbers. Total population fig-
ures are from United States Bureau of the Census, Statistical View of the United States: A
Compendium of the Seventh Census, 1850 (Washington, 1854), 314; U.S. Census Office,
Eighth Census of the United States: 186o. Population (Washington, 1864), 485. My research
relies primarily on the manuscript censuses, but in a few cases I used data from the pub-
lished returns. Figures from these published returns often differ slightly from those I com-
piled from the manuscript censuses. For example, Bureau of the Census, Statistical View of
the United States, 185o, p. 314, reports 6,213 slaves in Harrison County while I counted
6,igo from the manuscript returns. Minor discrepancies of this sort are to be expected
when dealing with large amounts of quantitative historical data, and generally they are

Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 76, July 1972 - April, 1973. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed June 30, 2015.