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Slavery at The Hermitage:
Slaves at The Hermitage, as at most southern plantations, were first and foremost a source of labor -- working the cotton and other crops grown on the property, handling the livestock, and helping to run the busy Jackson family household. But slavery was never just a matter of economics and efficient farm production, as the institution effected every facet of life at The Hermitage and throughout the antebellum South.
The Hermitage was once home to more than 140 enslaved African-Americans, by far the largest number of slaves on any farm in Davidson County. This made the ratio of black to white Hermitage residents at least ten to one. Once The Hermitage entered its peak years of operation after 1820, Andrew Jackson bought and sold few slaves. During this period, the number of slaves increased as a result of a high birth rate and low death rate within the slave community. After Jackson's death in 1845, his family suffered through financially hard times that forced them to sell many Hermitage slaves. Of the small number of slaves left in the hands of the Jackson family at the time of the Civil War, nearly all chose to leave The Hermitage when freedom came.
People writing about The Hermitage during Jackson's lifetime made little direct mention of slave life. Today, efforts are underway to piece together knowledge about The Hermitage's African-American community through careful analysis of documentary sources and through on-going archeological investigations. The goal of this research is to restore the Hermitage slave community to its prominent place within the story of life at this Tennessee plantation.
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