What Slave States Existed West Of The Mississippi River

Introduction to Slave States West of the Mississippi River

The Trans-Mississippi region of the United States included a number of territories and regions west of the Mississippi River. It included significant portions of Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming and Colorado, parts of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Montana, and New Mexico, and a few small sections of Utah, Nebraska and Dakota territories, as well as small portions of Arizona and Nevada. Most of the Trans-Mississippi region was slave-holding prior to the Civil War.

Slavery in the Trans-Mississippi West

Slavery in the trans-Mississippi west was both an economic and cultural tradition. As the region expanded and filled with settlers, both free and enslaved, from other parts of the United States, laws that both recognized and regulated slavery emerged. In the Trans-Mississippi west, slaves could be bought and sold, punished, and treated in the same way as slaves in the original southern states.

In addition to labor, slaves in the region were used for personal and household duties, such as cooking, cleaning, running errands, and caring for children and the sick and elderly. Slaves were also widely used as servants and as paid field hands. They were also leased out to smaller farmers and industrial concerns, working as miners, artisans, and laborers in factories and shipyards in the region.

Slave States West of the Mississippi River

The states west of the Mississippi that maintained slavery were Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, and (though briefly) Indian Territory. Missouri, a border state, was a slave state until its gradual emancipation in 1865. The southernmost slave state, Arkansas, legally abolished slavery in 1868; however, it was not enforced until after the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865.

Texas, a former Mexican province, maintained slavery despite protests from abolitionists. In 1860, there were an estimated 182,000 slaves in Texas.

Louisiana, with over 350,000 slaves in 1860, was the largest slave state west of the Mississippi River. Louisiana’s slave population was primarily located in the largely rural parishes in the southern and western parts of the state.

Indian Territory, which was made up of present-day Oklahoma, was invaded by slaveholders and traders from Missouri in the 1830s and 1840s, leading to an influx of slaves in the region. The territory barred the importation of slaves in 1845 and declared gradual emancipation in 1865, although it was not enforced.

Economy of the Slave States

As with other slave states, the economy of the Trans-Mississippi West was largely driven by slavery. Cotton and tobacco were major crops in regions such as Arkansas and Louisiana, while cattle ranching and trading flourished in Texas and Indian Territory. Plantations and farms in the region relied heavily on the labor of slaves to produce and harvest crops, care for livestock, construct buildings, and do other manual jobs.

Slavery also had an effect on the politics of the Trans-Mississippi region. Slaveholders, mostly large plantation owners, held considerable influence in the political arena, often arguing for the protection and expansion of their own interests and their institutions. This influence extended from Congress to state legislatures and to local governments.

Civil War in the Trans-Mississippi West

During the period of the Civil War, the Trans-Mississippi West was a battlefield. Arkansas and Louisiana saw the most action, with Union forces occupying parts of both states and Confederate forces staging repeated raids and guerrilla offensives. Texas was also a major Confederate stronghold, providing men, supplies, and money for the Confederate cause. In addition, Indian Territory was a part of the Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department from 1862 until 1865, and Confederate forces from the department often staged raids into Union-held parts of Arkansas.

The Union eventually gained control of most of the Trans-Mississippi West, but not until the end of the war. After the war, slavery in the region ended officially, although some African Americans in the area were not freed until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in December 1865.

Legacy of Trans-Mississippi Slavery

The legacy of slavery in the Trans-Mississippi West remains to this day. African Americans in the region are still confronting the legacy of racism and discrimination that stems from the institution of slavery. In addition, the economy of the region is still heavily shaped by the plantation system, with small family-owned farms replacing large plantations. Meanwhile, African Americans have experienced a higher degree of poverty in the region compared to other parts of the country.

Despite these issues, African Americans in the Trans-Mississippi West have made great strides since the abolition of slavery and have made significant contributions to the economic, political, and cultural life of the region.

Recognition and Awareness

Recognition of the legacy of slavery in the Trans-Mississippi West is still an issue that needs to be addressed. While the region has made progress in understanding the effects of slavery and taking steps to combat discrimination and oppression, many African Americans in the region are still not fully aware of the role that slavery and discrimination played in the development of the region.

It is important to recognize the impact of slavery on the development of the region and to ensure that people are educated about its effects. It is also important to ensure that African Americans in the region have a voice in the development of policies, programs, and initiatives aimed at addressing the legacy of slavery in the region.

Continuing Racial Disparities

While the Trans-Mississippi West has made great strides in the past few decades in terms of recognizing the legacy of slavery and taking steps to address racial disparities in the region, African Americans in the region still experience a higher degree of economic and political marginalization than other groups. The region’s history of slavery and racism has caused inequities in education, housing, employment, and other areas.

Therefore, it is essential that the legacy of slavery in the region is fully recognized, and that steps are taken to address the continuing inequities and disparities in the region. Furthermore, it is important to ensure that African Americans in the Trans-Missippi West have a meaningful voice in the development of policies and initiatives that affect their communities.

Cultural Impact of Trans-Mississippi Slavery

The legacy of slavery in the Trans-Mississippi West can still be felt in the region’s culture and traditions. African American cultural expressions such as music, dance, and language remain important aspects of the region. These cultural expressions, which are rooted in the region’s history of slavery, are celebrated and appreciated by the local African American communities and shared with the wider public.

The legacy of slavery in the Trans-Mississippi West can also be seen in the region’s food culture. Dishes such as gumbo, barbeque, and jambalaya are part of the region’s traditional cuisine and are rooted in the Afro-Creole cooking that was developed by African American cooks on Southern and Western plantations.


The Trans-Mississippi West, with its rich history of slavery, is an important part of the United States’ history. Although slavery officially ended after the Civil War, its effects still linger in the region and African Americans living in the Trans-Mississippi West are still struggling to overcome the legacy of racism and discrimination. It is important to recognize the impact of slavery on the region, to ensure that African Americans have a meaningful voice in its development, and to take steps to address the continuing racial disparities in the region.

Raymond Strasser is a passion-driven writer and researcher, dedicated to educating readers on the topic of world rivers. With a background in Geography and Environmental Studies, Raymond provides insightful pieces which explore the impact and importance that rivers have around the world.

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