Point of Divergence: Eli Whitney's observance of an African slave cleaning cotton either 1) never happens or 2) never gives him the idea to invent a more efficient way to clean bales of cotton, and the cotton gin is not developed until the latter 19th century, well after the total abolition of slavery in the United States. In this alternate reality, much of history is different for African-Americans, the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Sierra Leone, and Trans-Atlantic relations.

Primary Timeline

With the lack of a cotton gin, the following would likely happen (as copied from my own answer on Quora - Harry):

1793 - 1833


  • Manumission and gradual, incremental abolition would have happened in the Eastern slave states (and maybe Louisiana if the Louisiana Purchase would've been a thing?) completely by c. 1810 - 1830.
  • The African-American population would not have quadrupled in size, and would've remained concentrated along the Eastern seaboard states.
  • Armed Maroon Africans who had escaped slavery in Georgia to reach freedom in Spanish-owned Florida and intermarried with Seminole aborigines would have been able to bide their time long enough to see abolition happen north of the border in the early 1800s, and Florida would have either stayed a swampy Spanish territory with slaves on the northern coastline and Maroon/Seminole settlements in the interior or would have become U.S. territory much later.
  • The other pocket of slavery in the South would've been Southern Louisiana, due to its own history of importing slaves from French and Spanish territories for sugar plantations. Americanization of slavery would not have happened in Louisiana, the Code Noir would be kept intact, resulting in a largely-local movement to abolish slavery.
  • The War of 1812, for which there were non-slavery-dependent causes, would have seen a larger number of African-Americans escape on British ships for Nova Scotia, Sierra Leone and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • The tobacco-heavy Upper South states (Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina) would not have sold over 1 million slaves to plantations in the Lower South (South Carolina, Georgia) nor broken up so many slave (and, like 12 Years a Slave's Solomon Northrup, free) families in the process. This would result in this region continuing to possess the largest number of African-Americans into the 19th and perhaps 20th centuries.
  • The Black middle class would have grown earlier as the proliferation of education, community organizations (churches, etc.) and jobs filtered further down to the growing number of manumittees.
  • Gabriel Prosser, who was literate but enslaved, would have been freed prior to 1800. Hence, his rebellion would not have been planned.
  • Liberia would not have taken shape the way that it did, even though the growth of free Africans in the population and the victory of Haiti against France drove a lot of scared White Americans to the idea that free Africans should follow Jamaican Maroons and other ex-slaves to Sierra Leone.
  • If anything, as White Americans became more hostile to the growth of free Africans (sans the cotton gin) "taking their jobs", and as free African people like Paul Cuffee found prosperity in the shipping business and urban jobs, President Thomas Jefferson would have seen more rationale in supporting deportation of the "excess" of free Africans from the Upper South to Sierra Leone.
  • Voting rights would have been extended on a state-by-state basis to African-American men, but with a longer waiting period after the hypothetical last state ends slavery.

White Americans

  • White Americans would have been in a different socio-economic state in much of the Deep South. No Dixie. No Antebellum period (or "Gone with the Wind"). No Southwestward propagation of planter-dominated politics along the Gulf of Mexico. 
  • With six slave states prior to 1793, all bound to the eastern seaboard but with large western expanses, the eventual territories and states created from their borders (Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky) would not have carried slavery over into their self-governance by 1800. They would have abolished slavery prior to entering the Union.
  • Alongside the Midwest, the South would have become a more potent, almost year-round breadbasket during expansion into the West.
  • Due to more immigrant labor being distributed across the country, Labor unionism would've taken off in most of the South at the same time as in the North.
  • West Virginia would not have seceded from Virginia the way that it did.
  • Interracial marriage and relations would not have been so violently oppressed by the later 19th century.
  • Cities on the Fall Line like Macon, Georgia would not have been established the way that they were because the United States would have continued to recognize the sovereignty of Muscogee and Seminole people via the Treaty of New York (1790).
  • Jim Crow would not have happened along such a uniform stretch of the country. Instead, petty housing and employment discrimination would've been predominant.
  • Georgia probably would have abolished slavery after the shortest time of legalized slavery of any of the former 13 colonies (being legalized in GA in 1751).
  • Maryland, after having repealed a 1753 law prohibiting voluntary manumission by slaveowners in 1796, would have abolished slavery by 1800. 
  • White yeoman farmers, the "Plain Folks of the Old South", would have been allowed to advance themselves without slavery and plantations being the divide which separated them from both Southern planter families and the growing number of ex-slaves. However, white supremacy would have manifested itself in smaller ways comparable to the racism of the Northern states.
  • Diversified agriculture and industrialization would have taken off to the areas west of the Altamaha. 
  • The Democratic-Republican Party,which was the only political party in the United States since 1792, would have split along different lines.
  • The Baptist movement in American Christianit would not have split along the lines of slavery. 

1833 - 1863

  • Slavery will have been abolished completely by 1833.
  • With Mexico gaining Independence in 1821 and allowing U.S. settlers into Mexican Texas, those settlers would not have brought slaves nor established plantations in East Texas. The mainstay for anyone who wanted to make money in Texas would have been ranching out in West Texas while East Texas would have been a farming region.
  • The La Amistad case would not have happened as it did.
  • The Atlanta Compromise would not have happened.
  • Sharecropping would not have been a trend.
  • The Trail of Tears might not have happened.
  • More African-Americans moving out westward in Conestoga wagons into Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, Kentucky and Tennessee, alongside White settlers.
  • More African-Americans would have pursued jobs in the Second Industrial Revolution. 
  • African-American men would have "proven" themselves to the White establishment earlier enough to own property, receive the voting franchise and pursue local and state elected office.  
  • The women's suffrage movement would not have developed the way it did, due in part to free African women becoming the norm with the end of slavery.  

1863 - 1963

  • Presuming that someone still invented the phonograph, American music would not have incorporated such influences as jazz (Louisiana) and blues (Mississippi). Popular music - the world over! - would be completely different. Folk spirituals would have been the primary musical expression of African-Americans coming out of slavery in the Eastern states, and African "Congo music" would have stayed very popular for African-Americans coming out of slavery in Louisiana.

"Negro Removal" Timeline (1814-present)

In the absence of a cotton gin, the free Black population grows with voluntary manumission in the Upper South. However, as the free Black population grows, suspicion increases against them from the White majority in the Upper and Lower South. Slavery continues to decrease in profitability as tobacco exhausts the soil in the Upper South. As state laws are passed to restrict the movements, economics and education of free Blacks and slaves following the aborted Gabriel Prosser rebellion in 1800, the African-American population grows resentful of their oppression. Manumission does not result in freedom.

Paul Cuffee, a free Massachusetts shipping businessman of mixed Ashanti-Wampanoag ancestry, makes his first visit to Sierra Leone in March 1811 and later Liverpool, England before returning to the United States to see his cargo seized as part of an embargo on British goods. Going to Washington, D.C. to meet President James Madison and demand the return of his cargo, Cuffee relates to Madison, a Virginia slaveowner whose was not immune to the decline of tobacco's profitability, his experience of Sierra Leone. Madison rejects the idea of interacting with a British possession, but came to consider Cuffee a friend and the primary American authority on Africa.

The War of 1812 sees the British savage many of the Upper South's cities. After sacking Norfolk, Virginia and Washington, D.C., the British proceed overland forty miles to Baltimore, Maryland, laying waste to the city's fortifications. Through this, the British proceed to enforce Alexander Cochrane's 1814 proclamation in order to recruit and free African-Americans in return for either immigration to any one of Britain's other colonies (including Sierra Leone, Bermuda, Nova Scotia or Trinidad) or their participation in the Corps of Colonial Marines, an all-Black unit of the Royal Marines. Because of the incapacitated American defenses, word spreads somewhat easily into the interior, resulting in an overwhelming flight of both free and escaped slave Blacks to British-occupied coastlines and port cities in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. Over 60,000 African-Americans pledge their loyalty to the British in order to escape America, overwhelming the British ships.

In turn, the Americans are deeply angered by both the British and the African-Americans. After a series of rallying battles, Americans force British to a stalemate which is encapsulated by the Treaty of Ghent in 1815. In retaliation against African-Americans following the war, slave-owning state governments pass laws which treat African-Americans as foreign aliens subject to deportation. Free African-Americans who did not manage to swear loyalty to the British are forcibly removed to port cities such as Norfolk, Richmond, Baltimore and Charleston. Manumitted African-Americans are immediately sent to these port cities. Madison reconsiders Paul Cuffee's offer and prepares the groundwork for deportation of African-Americans to Sierra Leone.

Anglo-U.S. relations after the Treaty of Ghent improve just enough for U.S. naval ships to deport African-Americans to Freetown. Madison's successor and fellow Virginia planter, James Monroe, campaigns on outright expelling African-Americans from U.S. territory for their perceived danger and treachery to White Americans, and is a founding member of the American Colonization Society which facilitates the purchase of land further along the coastline next to the Sierra Leone colony in order to resettle African-American ex-slaves.

In Liberia-Sierra Leone

This, however, results in opposition from the British and their agents in Freetown to a neighboring American colony. The British claim the territory bought by the ACS, leading to a standoff between U.S. and British military personnel. An agreement is struck whereby the settlement area of the growing Sierra Leone colony is extended further eastward down the coastline to Cape Palmas.  

1814-1850 in White America

The expulsion of African-Americans does not help the slavery institution in the United States, leading to its abolition in 1833. However, the lands formerly claimed by the now-expelled free Blacks in the Upper South are possessed by both poor White families from Appalachian Virginia and Pennsylvania as well as German emigres. This staves off westward expansion of Virginians and North Carolinians into Kentucky and Tennessee for a time, and also places poor White farmers into direct competition for land and power against the shrinking tobacco planters who once ruled the states.  

For White Americans who moved to regions formerly occupied by African American slaves and free-people, diversification of agriculture away from tobacco toward food crops would become a great priority. Tobacco planters would begin to sell their plantations in parcels to poor White farmers, while immigrants from Germany and Northern Europe would also flow across Tennessee into the Deep South east of the Mississippi.   

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