Slaves built South’s railroads — when it didn’t kill them

“At the outbreak of the war in 1861, 15,000 slaves were working for Southern railroads….

“Housing often consisted of little more than a tent, and diseases such as scarlet fever, cholera and malaria were rife. [Theodore Kornweibel Jr.] cites a particularly egregious case where a contractor on the Atlantic & North Carolina Railroad kept slaves ‘in a square pen, made of pine poles, through which one might thrust his double fists, [with] no shutter on the door…. no chimney and no floor, no bed clothing and no cooking utensils.’

“Conditions were routinely so bad that many owners refused to hire out their slaves to railroad companies, knowing that they might lose their valuable asset.”

— From The Great Railroad Revolution: The History of Trains in America” by Christian Wolmar (2012)