Quantifying the New Orleans Slave Trade

The United States Civil War spanned from April 12, 1861 — May 9, 1865, taking the lives of roughly 620,000 soldiers during that timeframe. While slave trade was obviously prominent before the Civil War, the trade of slaves remained prominent all the way through to the end of the War. Cities all across the Confederacy hosted slave trading, where buyers and sellers across the nation could congregate to exchange goods. One of these host cities was New Orleans. A database of all slave transactions from 1856–1861 that were recorded at the Orleans Civil Clerk of Court have been made public thanks to Tulane University Professor Jonathan Pritchett.

The dataset contains numerous features of each slave transaction. To highlight; price per transaction, total number of slaves involved, sex of the slaves involved, buyer/seller’s state of origin, the slave’s occupation, and much more. I have taken the liberty of analyzing and measuring the various variables included in the dataset. Lets dive in.

For starters, a total of 125,017 slaves were sold and registered through the Orleans Civil Clerk Court between October 1856 — August 1861. Out of the 125,017 slaves, 3,963 were children (a child defined as 10 years or younger). The average price for that time period was $127/slave. Out of the total 0f 14,850 transaction recorded, 7,655 transactions included more than 1 slave. 474 transactions were estate sales as well.

The most common occupation types of slaves ranged from blacksmith, carpenter, cook, baker, and bricklayer.


Calomiris, Charles W., and Jonathan Pritchett. 2016. “Betting on Secession: Quantifying Political Events Surrounding Slavery and the Civil War.” American Economic Review, 106(1): 1–23. DOI: 10.1257/aer.20131483

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