May 17

Slavery in Colonial Georgia

May 17, 1749 - statewide

At a time when slavery thrived in the American colonies, Georgia, you may be surprised, was alone in banning it. But it wasn’t a moral decision.

The Georgia Trustees prohibited slavery because it conflicted with their vision of small landowners prospering from their own labor. They also wanted Georgia to serve as a military buffer between the English colonies and Spanish Florida. The Spanish offer of freedom to slaves in exchange for military service would undermine Georgia’s security. The trustees also wanted to avoid South Carolina’s fate: large-scale indigo and rice plantations worked with slave labor created huge disparities in wealth and a black majority. In some areas of coastal Carolina, slaves vastly outnumbered white settlers. But eventually, the lure of wealth by forced labor proved too tempting: the ban on slavery was finally overturned in 1751.

By the American Revolution, Georgia’s enslaved population had grown to 18,000, after the Georgia Trustees petitioned Parliament to end the ban on slavery on May 17, 1749, Today in Georgia History.