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Distribution of Virginia's Slave Population, Map, 1861


Materials in the Library of Virginia’s collections contain historical terms, phrases, and images that are offensive to modern readers. These include demeaning and dehumanizing references to race, ethnicity, and nationality; enslaved or free status; physical and mental ability; and gender and sexual orientation. 


Using the data from the 1860 census, this map was created in 1861. It shows the distribution of enslaved Virginians in each of the state's counties, with the darker shades showing the counties with the highest percentage of enslaved men, women, and children. In 1860, Virginia had a population of almost 500,000 enslaved people, the nation's highest. The map shows that a vast majority of Virginia's enslaved population lived east of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Many of the counties in the tobacco-growing region, such as Nottoway and Amelia, had population majorities of slaves rather than white residents. The table on the left lists the precise number of white and enslaved residents in each county.

This map was drawn by Edwin Hergesheimer and published by Henry S. Graham in Washington, D.C., in 1861. In the bottom left-hand corner is the notice that copies of the map were "Sold for the benefit of the sick and wounded of the U.S. Army." A personal inscription on the bottom right-hand corner reads: "Presented to the Honorable the Secretary of the Navy by his obedient servant W. R. Palmer," who was a captain in the Topographical Engineers of the U.S. Army.

Citation: E. Hergesheimer, Map of Virginia Showing the Distribution of its Slave Population from the Census of 1860, C. B. Graham, Lithographer (Washington, D.C.: Henry S. Graham, 1861), Library of Virginia.


Social Studies: VS.1, VS.7, VS.8, USI.1, USI.9, VUS.1, VUS.7
Art: 4.1, 5.1

Suggested Questions

Preview Activity

Look at It: Look at the map. What information does it provide? Why might someone want to have this information at the time this map was produced and sold?

Post Activities

Analyze: From this map, which Virginia counties had the highest slave populations?  Which had the lowest? Using your knowledge of Virginia history and geography, why might this be the case? The far western counties of Virginia broke apart to create the new state of West Virginia in 1863. Does this map suggest any reasons for that outcome?

Be the Journalist: Step into the role of journalist in 1861. Write a brief description of the map and explain its purpose to an audience who may be uninformed but interested in the information shown here. Why might this map have been sold "to benefit the sick and wounded of the U.S. Army" in 1861?