Selective Breeding aka, artificial selection is a way of humans selecting mates for an organism based on certain traits to produce offspring with those traits.

When African Americans were held in the USA, did their masters breed them with the intent of producing "better" slaves? Or is this even possible biologically? I would not think it is impossible, since a lot of phenotypical (physically viewable) traits are influenced by genetics and the environment.

IE: Male slave A ~ phenotypically Large , Female slave B ~phenotypically Large

Their intention: A + B ~ phenotypically large child.

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    Possible duplicate of What degree of choice did slaves have over their sexual autonomy?
    – CGCampbell
    Oct 4, 2015 at 2:21
  • Whoah @tyler durden. You are such a cynical badass just like that guy in the movie we don't talk about. Oct 4, 2015 at 16:07
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    I've always been told that it was cheaper to import new slaves than to breed them locally. Not sure if that held true for the entire duration of the existence of African slavery in the Americas though. And no, they were no "african-american slaves", the politically correct term "african-american" for blacks was not invented until the 2nd half of the 20th century.
    – jwenting
    Oct 5, 2015 at 4:15
  • @jwenting So is using the term "black" more apropos then? Should I edit the question or just let the mods take care of it?
    – Ro Siv
    Oct 5, 2015 at 22:48
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    @jwenting - no, it was not cheaper once the slave trade was banned on the US side and England began interdicting the source of slaves in Africa in the early 19th Century. That is when the capital value of slaves began its increase up to the Civil War.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 7, 2015 at 23:53

1 Answer 1


No, I don't think that the kind of detailed breeding that a poodle breeder does was ever more than a tiny element of the Slave system in the Americas. Sure, a person wanting to sell slaves for value will look for healthy slaves. But the lifetimes are too long and humans too ornery to ask for much success treating them like lab animals.

Also, marriages were usually encouraged among slaves to both reward well behaved slaves and to support the supposed civilization and Christianization that was one of the supposed reasons African slavery was acceptable. An overly "scientific" breeding program would be viewed poorly by the other slaveowners around. Even normal operations that were too directly visible as breeding for sale were looked down on, although everyone sold off slaves. Often you will hear assertions that that only transplanted Yankees would do that. Again, the vision of slavery as a humanistic and "family like" atmosphere was clung to very strongly, no matter how poorly this image matched the underlying reality.

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