The Athens Factory also participated directly in slavery from the time of its founding until at least 1863.
In June of 1836, “seven negroes”—Bob, Cuffee, and Charles, along with Ezekiel and Dinah and their two children—are listed alongside the other assets of the company, including “lands, water privileges, mills, factory buildings…smith tools, wagon and team and the stock of wool.” Many of these same individuals appear again in the company minutes in May 1843 and February 1844, when the stockholders resolved to sell Cuffee, Ezekiel, and Ezekiel’s family members, along with another person known only as “yellow boy,” in order to pay off company debt.
The Athens Factory was fully dependent on the institution slavery. The factory management owned and rented enslaved labor. The raw material for the fabric spun and woven by factory operatives was cotton planted, tended, and harvested by men, women, and children enslaved in Georgia. Also one of the Athens Factory’s principal products was “negro cloth,” a course cloth sold to local landowners for the purpose of clothing enslaved people. Scholars argue that this clothing rendering enslaved persons visible by clothing them in stigmatized fabric.