After an 1808 act of Congress abolished the international slave trade, a domestic trade flourished. Richmond became the largest slave-trading center in the Upper South, and the slave trade was Virginia’s largest industry. It accounted for the sale of as many as two million people from Richmond to the Deep South, where the cotton industry provided a market for enslaved labor.
Prices of slaves varied widely over time. They rose to a high of about $1,250 during the cotton boom of the late 1830s, fell to below half that level in the 1840s, and rose to about $1,450 in the late 1850s. Males were valued 10 to 20 percent more than females; at age ten, children’s prices were about half that of a prime male field hand.
Virginia’s 550,000 slaves constituted one third of the state’s population in 1860.