Teacher Lesson Ideas

Agricultural Census Data

This lesson introduces students to the value of census data in reconstructing the past. The agricultural census includes information about the sizes of farms and the amount of farm crops and animal livestock produced in various areas of the country. The antebellum South is commonly thought of as a land of large cotton plantations. The census reveals that many small farms existed in the South that grew a variety of crops. Also, the census shows that far more people owned small numbers of slaves or no slaves at all compared to large plantation owners. By looking at census information from different areas of South Carolina (say the lowcountry versus the upcountry) and from different time periods, students can see the differences between different regional economies and the introduction of new cash crops. Students can also see whether certain crops became planted more or less over time and how prices fluctuated, and can speculate on the reasons behind those changes. The census data in this lesson was obtained from the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Rebecca Voight
Pageland Elementary School, SC
2003 Midlands Institute

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