Enslaved Africans also worked in urban areas, helping build them up. About 10 percent of the enslaved African population in the United States lived in cities like Charleston, South Carolina; Richmond, Virginia; Savannah, Georgia; Mobile, Alabama; New York; Philadelphia and New Orleans. All had sizable enslaved populations. In the Southern cities, they totaled approximately a third of the population, meaning they had the numbers to produce lots of work.
Value Based on Skills
The scope of jobs the enslaved were forced to do was vast, and their value was based on their skills. They were domestics, but also fishermen, coopers, draymen, sailors, masons, bricklayers, blacksmiths, bakers, tailors, peddlers, painters and porters. Some were hired out to work as skilled laborers on plantations, on public works projects, and in industrial enterprises. And even a small number of the enslaved hired themselves out and paid their owners a percentage of their earnings. According to MeasuringWorth.com, a premium was paid if the slave was an artisan — particularly a blacksmith (+55 percent), a carpenter (+45 percent), a cook (+20 percent) or possessed other domestic skills (+15 percent). On the other hand, an enslaved person’s price was discounted if the person was known to be a runaway (-60 percent), was disabled (-60 percent), had a vice such as drinking (-50 percent) or was physically impaired (-30 percent).