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Peter, a slave from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1863. The scars are a result of a whipping by his overseer, who was subsequently discharged. It took two months to recover from the beating.

The history of slavery in Louisiana reaches to the earliest dates of European settlement in the present-day U.S. state.

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French rule

Chattel slavery was introduced by French settlers in Louisiana in 1706, when bloody raids on Chitimacha settlements occurred. This resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, with the claiming of a few surviving women and children as slaves. The enslavement of natives, including the Atakapa, Bayougoula, Natchez, Choctaw, Chicasaw, Taensa, and Alabamon peoples, would continue throughout the history of French rule.

African chattel slaves were introduced in 1710, when a number of them were captured as plunder by the French army during the War of the Spanish Succession. The mass importation of slaves to Louisiana took place between 1717-1721, when over 2,000 slaves were loaded to New Orleans harbor by at least eight boats. The death toll for both African and native slaves was immensely high, abetted by scurvy and dysentery; the primary African shipment was cut in half by such diseases.

U.S. rule

The demand for slavery increased among U.S. settlers in Louisiana following two main events: the Louisiana Purchase (1803) and the invention of the cotton gin (1793). This severely raised the interests of slaveowners who were searching for a valuable cash crop besides such staples as sugar, which was particularly predominant in southern Louisiana. The Northern area of the state became another outpost for the "cotton empire" which soon encompassed neighboring states, such as Arkansas and Texas.

The Mississippi River around New Orleans created the ideal alluvial soil necessary for the growing of sugar. Sugar was the prime export of Louisiana during the antebellum period.

In 1811, the largest slave revolt in American history took place outside of New Orleans, as slaves rebelled against the brutal work regimens of sugar plantations and the American system of government that had recently been put in place. The 1811 German Coast Uprising ended with white militia companies hunting down black slaves, lopping off their heads, and placing the piked heads on the levees.

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