Slavery as an economic institution. A small percentage of slaves were domestic servants, working in a planter's main house as cooks, nursemaids, seamstresses, and coachmen. An even smaller percentage worked as laborers or craftsmen—carpenters, masons, and blacksmiths. It was not unheard of for “spare” slaves to become mill or factory workers, and skilled artisans might be hired out to other plantations by their masters. But the overwhelming majority of slaves were field hands, picking cotton and planting and harvesting rice, tobacco, and sugar cane. The occupational distribution of slaves reflected the nature of the economy and society of the South, a region that was agricultural and rural with very little industrialization and urbanization compared to the North. Irrespective of the jobs that slaves did, slavery on the whole was profitable. The
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