Post-war Population Trends

The second half of the nineteenth century saw significant demographic shifts in the population of the United States. In order to better understand the southern Colored Conventions of this period, we foreground some of the trends and patterns in populations, particularly as they related to the formerly enslaved African American population in the South.

The total population of the United States as reported in federal censuses grew in very large numbers in the middle of the nineteenth century, from 12,866,020 in 1830 to 50,155,783 in 1880. Much of this growth was due to the arrival of immigrants, particularly from Europe and Asia. The graph below reveals a steep increase in the total proportion of the population identified as "white" between 1850 and 1860.

Although the United States stopped the legal importation of enslaved persons with the "Act Prohibiting Importation of Slaves," which was passed in 1807 and went into effect in 1808, the number of enslaved persons in the United States increased dramatically in the mid-nineteenth century. At the eve of the Civil War in 1860, enslaved persons made up eighty-nine percent of the total African American population, a racial distinction noted as "negro" on the federal census. 

 

 

Hover over the points and lines on the graphs below for more detailed information about the size of various demographic groups.

 

Source: United States Department of Commerice, Bureau of the Census. Historical Statistics of the United States, Colonial Times to 1970. (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Census, 1975). Link.