The task system was one of the two plantation slave labor systems. Under the task system, slaves were assigned several specific tasks within a day. When those tasks were finished, slaves could have time to themselves. Slaves who worked in rice and long staple cotton plantations, in the naval stores industry, or in skilled labor positions worked under the task system. The benefits of this system for slaves included less supervision, more autonomy and more free time.
Wherever tobacco, sugar, or short stable cotton grew, slaves worked in large groups or gangs under the strict supervision of white overseers or black drivers from dawn to dusk. Close supervision meant less autonomy and less free time than slaves used in other industries or in growing other crops.
James Oliver Horton, the Benjamin Banneker Professor of American Studies and History at George Washington University, and Lois E. Horton, Professor of Sociology at George Mason University, explore the human dimension of the inhumane institution of American slavery and trace the rise of Jim Crow as a new means of racial control.