Race and Reckoning in Forsyth County

1912-2020

Enslavement in Georgia

On the eve of the Civil War in 1860, Forsyth County’s population of 7,749 included 890 enslaved African Americans, who were forced to work in gold mines, on mid-sized cotton farms, and in the homes of their enslavers. Another 461,000 enslaved people labored elsewhere in the state. Many worked on rice plantations across the Coastal Plain. But the largest share—some three-quarters of Georgia's enslaved population—worked on cotton plantations in the rich soils of the state’s Black Belt.

Slaveholders frequently beat and sometimes killed the people they enslaved. Families were often separated by the sale of one family member or another, and regular slave patrols terrorized both enslaved and free Black people as they traveled or rested in their homes at night. Oral histories document Forsyth County’s slave patrols, which brutalized the area’s Black residents. All the while, though, enslaved people resisted their captors and sustained a rich culture in the face of horrible cruelty.