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In 1862, a free black man paid $5 in taxes, compared to 75 cents for a white man.“That’s harassment,” Einhorn said.
Where slave taxes generated revenue for the government, taxes on free blacks -- aimed at punishment.Art-Net ON/OFF toggle is assignable to a Function Key.See the Programmable Buttons section for more information.Historians estimate that at least through the mid-1850s, the tax on the wealth created by the men, women, and children suffering exploitation — and often, physical and sexual assaults — was the single biggest revenue source for state government.Like slavery, the slave tax would leave a permanent wound on the state. Reconstruction-era efforts to replace the lost revenue with increased property taxes — the only major source left — sparked an angry reaction.Whatever the rate, a slaveholder's tax bill was tiny compared to the slave's value.
In 1860, an Alabama slaveholder would pay no more than $1.10 in taxes (about $30 in 2016 dollars) for a 15- to 30-year field hand.
The wealth the slaves generated — largely from cultivating cotton — was large.“Alabama was one of the wealthiest states in the United States at the time of the Civil War, and so was Mississippi, in part because they’re only counting white people,” said Alfred Brophy, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law.
By 1850, cotton accounted for 50 percent of the United States’ exports. Non-slaveholding whites may not have enjoyed the wealth, but benefited from the system.
The slaveholder could sell that same person for up to $1,600 (equal to about $43,000 today).
The total value of slaves in the South that year, according to "Alabama: The History of a Deep South State," was $2 billion.“It’s the 1860 census that has the summary number that there’s more wealth held in slaves than railroad and industrial assets combined,” Einhorn said.
In the antebellum era, Thornton estimates, the “wealthiest third of the citizenry paid at least two-thirds of the taxes.”“Putting aside the moral depravity of slavery, and I don’t imply otherwise, the antebellum tax structure of Alabama was progressive in the sense that the burden fell more on those able to pay,” Hamill said. The Democratic Party, which represented small farmers, dominated antebellum Alabama, but most slaveholders — who clustered in the Black Belt — belonged to the rival Whig Party.