Image 'In the cotton field', 1863

TLF ID M008732

This is a colour lithographic card showing three slaves picking cotton. Two men are using large bags to carry the cotton while a female slave is using a basket. The card was number one in a collectible series of 12 album cards entitled 'The slave in 1863. A thrilling series of the great evil.' produced by US artist Henry Louis Stephens in Philadelphia.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This card is a valuable source for the year 9 history depth study elective Movement of peoples (1750-1901), which studies the influence of the industrial revolution on the movement of peoples throughout the world, including the transatlantic slave trade. Slave labour was the economic underpinning of the cotton industry in the American south and west. Half of the 4 million slaves counted in the US census of 1860 worked in the cotton industry.
  • The life of field slaves on cotton plantations was hard. They were called to the cotton harvest before dawn and worked all day in the sun. Cotton is harvested when the fluffy fibres of seed cotton have expanded in the heat to split the cotton bolls apart and fluffy balls of cotton have burst out. Slaves had to handpick each ball of seed cotton. This involved twisting the seed cotton free from sharp burrs attached to the plants' stems.
  • This series of cards was produced primarily to appeal to the mass market in the north. It was also intended to persuade northerners who were fighting the southern states in the American Civil War (1861-65) that their cause was just. Slavery was the 'great evil' and the cards traced the life of a slave through his years of bondage and enforced separation from family, through to his escape and reaching of the Union lines, his joining the Union army and finally dying in the cause of liberty.
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Henry Louis Stephens
  • Description: author
  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Person: Henry Louis Stephens
  • Description: author
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.