Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Baltimore City Slave Trade

Blacks and whites alike of modern-day Baltimore have ignored the story of the jails that played a key role in the U.S. slave trade of the 1800s. The Baltimore Sun reported on 20 June 1999, by SCOTT SHANE:
ON JULY 24, 1863, three weeks after the Battle of Gettysburg, Union officers freed the inmates of a slave trader's jail on Pratt Street near the Baltimore harbor. They found a grisly scene.

"In this place I found 26 men, 1 boy, 29 women and 3 infants," Col. William Birney of the U.S. Colored Troops wrote to his commanding officer. "Sixteen of the men were shackled and one had his legs chained together by ingeniously contrived locks connected by chains suspended to his waist."

The slaves were confined in sweltering cells or in the bricked-in yard of "Cam- liu's slave-pen," where "no tree or shrub grows" and "the mid-day sun pours down its scorching rays," Birney wrote. Among those imprisoned was a 4-month-old born in the jail and a 24-month-old who had spent all but the first month of his life behind bars.

The liberation of the slave jails marked the end of a brutal Baltimore institution whose story remains unknown except to a handful of local historians.

For a half-century before the Civil War, more than a dozen slave traders operated from harborside storefronts along Pratt and adjacent streets. Some advertised regularly in The Sun and other papers, declaring "5,000 Negroes Wanted" or "Negroes! Negroes! Negroes!" In an 1845 city directory, "Slave Dealers" are listed between "Silversmiths" and "Soap."

Out-of-town dealers would routinely stop for a week at Barnum's or another downtown hotel and place newspaper advertisements declaring their desire to buy slaves.

A routine spectacle was the dreary procession of black men, women and children in chains along Pratt Street to Fells Point, where ships waited to carry them south to New Orleans for auction. Weeping family members would follow their loved ones along the route; they knew their parting might be forever, as there would be no way to know where slaves shipped south would end up.

The grim drama in Baltimore was part of a major industry. Though the United States banned the import of slaves in 1808, the domestic slave trade thrived, as the need for labor shrank in the Chesapeake area and boomed in the Deep South, where the cotton gin had revolutionized agriculture. Between 1790 and 1859, according to one scholar's estimate, more than 1 million slaves were "sold south," most of them from Virginia and Maryland.

The broken families and severed relationships resulting from this commerce were a human catastrophe that can be compared in scale, if not in violence or death toll, to the original tragedy of the Middle Passage. Scholars estimate that perhaps 11 million captured Africans survived the journey to the Americas, but most went to Brazil and the Caribbean; only about 650,000 came to the colonies that would become the United States.

Yet the story of the domestic slave trade has been swallowed in America's long amnesia about slavery in general.

"A dream of mine would be to have a little Baltimore tour -- not showing where Frederick Douglass worked in Fells Point or where Thurgood Marshall lived, but where the slave traders were, where the slaves were whipped," says Ralph Clayton, a librarian at the central Pratt library and a historian who has authored most of the few works on the city's slave trade. "But I've run into many people of both races who say, 'Why are you digging this up? Leave it alone.'"
Slave pen'

Agnes Kane Callum, dean of Maryland's African-American genealogists, remembers seeing a still-standing slave jail as a girl in the 1930s. Her father would take the family on Sunday drives and point out a hulking brick building with barred windows at Pratt and Howard streets.
"He called it a slave pen," recalls Callum, 74, a North Baltimore grandmother who has researched slavery for 30 years. "He'd say, 'That was where my grandmother was held.'" The slave dealer sold Callum's great-grandmother, who had been snatched as a girl from a beach in the Cape Verde Islands off West Africa, to a plantation in St. Mary's County.

Camliu's and all the other physical evidence of Baltimore's once-thriving slave trade has been erased by demolition and redevelopment. But its history can be pieced together from surviving documents.

The slave jails served several purposes. Slave owners leaving for a trip could check their slaves into a jail to ensure they would not flee. Travelers stopping in Baltimore could lock up their slaves overnight while they slept at a nearby inn. Unwanted slaves or those considered unreliable because of runaway attempts could be sold and housed at the jail until a ship was ready to take them south, usually to New Orleans.

The slave ships anchored off Fells Point, which the traders' generally preferred because of fear of interference from the large number of free blacks working at the Inner Harbor, says Clayton. He has researched the story of an Amistad-style rebellion by slaves on one ship, the Decatur, southbound from Baltimore. The Sun carried ads for the ships' regular runs from Baltimore to New Orleans.
By the Civil War, while slaves outnumbered free blacks in Maryland, in Baltimore there were 10 free people of color for every slave. Yet the slave trade posed a constant threat to free African-Americans, who were in danger of being kidnapped and sold into slavery.

In fact, the warden of the Baltimore County jail ran regular newspaper notices listing black men and women he had arrested on suspicion of being runaways but who claimed to be free. Each notice would include a detailed description and the admonition, "The owner of the above described negro man is requested to come forward, prove property, pay charges and take him away, otherwise he will be discharged according to law."

In The Sun in 1838, Hope H. Slatter, a Georgia-born trader who succeeded Woolfolk as Baltimore's leading trafficker in human beings, announced under the heading "Cash for Negroes" the opening of a private jail at Pratt and Howard, "not surpassed by any establishment of the kind in the United States." Slatter offered to house and feed slaves there for 25 cents a day, declaring: "I hold myself bound to make good all jail breaking or escapes from my establishment."

To keep the supply flowing, Slatter added: "Cash and the highest prices will at all times be given for likely slaves of both sexes. ... Persons having such property to dispose of, would do well to see me before they sell, as I am always purchasing for the New Orleans market."

Facing complaints about the grim procession of chained human beings along Pratt Street, Slatter found a solution of sorts: He hired newfangled, horse-drawn "omnibuses" to move the slaves to the Fells Point docks. He would follow on horseback.

"The trader's heart was callous to the wailings of the anguished mother for her child. He heeded not the sobs of the young wife for her husband," wrote one abolitionist eyewitness whose account was discovered by Clayton.

"I saw a mother whose very frame was convulsed with anguish for her first born, a girl of 18, who had been sold to this dealer and was among the number then shipped. I saw a young man who kept pace with the carriages, that he might catch one more glimpse of a dear friend, before she was torn forever from his sight. As she saw him, she burst into a flood of tears, sorrowing most of all that they should see each other's faces no more," the abolitionist wrote.

Rogers' mother was particularly distraught, the flier said, because she had lost another daughter in the same manner four years earlier, "of whom she has never since heard." Rogers' stepfather, a free man, had offered to bind himself to service to work off the $850 necessary to buy her freedom. But the slave trader was unwilling to wait, so the preacher, identified as S. Guiteau, was trying to raise the necessary sum.

"Let mothers and daughters imagine the case their own," Guiteau wrote, "and they cannot but act with promptness."

Reopening old wounds

Why have such spellbinding stories so rarely been told? Callum, the Baltimore genealogist, attributes it to the reluctance of both races to reopen the wound left by slavery.

"White people naturally don't want anyone to know their ancestors owned slaves," Callum says. But black people, too, have kept silent, she says. Callum's maternal grandfather was born into slavery, but when the subject arose, the old man would declare, "No man owned me!"

"His voice was so full of emotion, a hush would fall over the room," Callum recalls, sitting in her North Baltimore rowhouse surrounded by the tools of the genealogical trade.

"Some black people still feel that way today, six generations later," she says. "But we cannot let people forget our holocaust, the black holocaust of slavery."

(By Scott Shane, a reporter, for The Baltimore Sun.)

Historian Ira Berlin: On the Underground Railroad

On the Underground Railroad

The notion of an underground railroad sets up ideas of precision and organization. And, indeed, the Underground Railroad did have conductors, it did have safe houses, it did have a vigilance committee. But for the most part it was a loosely knit network of black, mostly black men and women, some white abolitionists who appeared when somebody was in big trouble, kind of ad hoc. Somebody had escaped a slave trader, a slave trader or a slave catcher was following them, they needed big help. The Underground Railroad provided big help and by that process thousands of black people gained their freedom. And, of course, they then joined the struggle against slavery. The Underground Railroad, besides freeing these individuals had an enormous effect on American society at mid century.

Number one, it demonstrated to northerners, white northerners, who were not committed to the end of slavery, how horrendous an institution slavery was. How much black people desired freedom. What they would do, the extent they would do to gain that freedom. This against the slave holders' propaganda that slavery was a benevolent institution and that black people were happy as slaves.
Professor Ira Berlin

Number two, the underground railroad demonstrated to northerners their own complicity in the institution of slavery. This in particular, after passage of the second Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, an Act which operated against certain treasured rights of the American people, particularly the right of habeas corpus. And which demanded that all Americans participate in the recapture of runaway slaves and if they did not participate they were liable to fine or perhaps even jail.

Thirdly, the Underground Railroad demonstrated to southerners, to slave holders, the extent to which slaves opposed slavery. To the extent to which some radical abolitionists, black and white, were willing to go to help slaves escape. And demonstrated the slow leaching of slavery from the border states which over time would leave them isolated in a slave-holding republic in the deep south. A slave-holding republic which slavery might be liquidated by constitutional means. They, therefore, struck a preemptive strike to create an independent confederacy. That independent confederacy cession led to a war and war, of course, led to emancipation and ironically the end of slavery itself.

On African Americans in the North

On the eve of the Civil War about a quarter of a million black people lived in the North in freedom. Some of them, of course, were descended from people who never were slaves, who slipped through the net of slavery. The vast majority of them gained their freedom as a result of the American Revolution and the emancipations that followed the American Revolution and hence were free for generations, perhaps two, perhaps three generations. Some of them were newly freed, were runaways from the South. These free people of color for the most part resided in cities, by dynamic hub of northern society and although this was the dynamic part of the northern economy, free blacks did not get to participate in this. They were prescribed from the best jobs. Most black people, women worked as domestics, men worked as day laborers. They shouldered a shovel, they pushed a broom, they were not allowed into other kinds of occupations.

They were also limited legally. They were not allowed in most places to run for office, to vote, to sit on juries, to testify against whites, to participate in the militia. Nonetheless, they enjoyed certain critical civil rights, the right to organize, the right to meet, the right to publish. They take these few rights which were allowed them, they form them into a great organizational and political tradition which creates a network of churches and schools and associations which creates a cadre of political leaders, of conventions. Everyone from Sojourner Truth to Frederick Douglass who batter against the institution of slavery, who batter against the institution of inequality, who demand full participation in American society, it is that which is the legacy of free people of color in the northern states.

On African Americans in the South

On the eve of the Civil War slightly more than four million people of African descent lived in the slave states. About a quarter of a million of those were free people of color. That is more free blacks in the South than they are in the North. They lived on the very margins of southern society because slave holders, planters, feared them as harbingers of the Revolution, beginning of slave insurrections, examples to slaves that a black person could be free. So that free people of color were prescribed legally, culturally, socially in a variety of ways. They not only had their legal rights limited, but they were forced to carry passes, denied free travel, a whole variety of prescriptions. Nonetheless, perhaps because they were black and perhaps because blackness was identified with labor, free people of color in the South had certain economic niches which allowed them to participate in the economy, participate perhaps to a far greater degree than free blacks in the North. And free blacks in the South enjoyed a greater economic prosperity than they did in the North which is perhaps one of the reasons why they stay in the South.

The vast majority of African Americans in the South were slaves. And as slaves they suffered from the condition that slaves everywhere did. That is slavery was an institution which rested upon violence, imposition, psychological and physical. A dehumanization as slave holders squeezed the labor and creativity out of black people for their own profit, for their own wealth, for their own political power. Nonetheless, slaves refused to give in to this dehumanization. That is on the narrowest of grounds they created a culture, they created life, they created families, they created churches, they created educational institutions, they created cuisine, language, theology, all of the trappings of culture. So here we have the two facts about slavery: the great tension in slave life between the dehumanization, the violence of slavery and the creativity of black people within slavery.

A second thing should be said about slavery and should be understood, that slavery was not one thing, it was many different things. It was different in cities than in the countryside. It was different on plantations than in farms. And in the 19th century slavery was changing rapidly. At the beginning of the 19th century most slaves grew rice or tobacco. At the end of slavery in 1863 most slaves were growing cotton. In 1800 most slaves lived in the seaboard states by emancipation, most slaves were living in the black belt. That is an enormous migration, forced migration of slaves from the upper to the lower south. We call that the slave trade. And perhaps the most important change that goes on in the 19th century, the embrace of Christianity for the first time by people of African descent and the creation of the Afro Christian Church. All of these things speak to the kinds of changes within slave life. The one thing, of course, that does not change is the desire of black people, of slaves for freedom. That, of course, is a standard throughout the history of slavery.

Interview with Historian Ira Berlin

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thumbscrew Torture Device


Now, people know what this contraption is? These are thumb screws. Thumbscrews are basically an instrument of torture.
They would be used on a slave ship in the aftermath, especially of an uprising, and insurrection in which the ring leaders would have their thumbs placed under the metal loops, the key turned producing a kind of pain that is almost indescribable from what I can learn of it.

Leaving a man in that condition for hours if not days and after which the thumb might have to be amputated. In his parliamentary testimony, John Newton said, “I have known slave ship captains to use thumbscrews that produce the most excruciating pain among the enslaved”.
I dare say he did know it because he himself had used them as he describes in his journal, and moreover folks, he used them on children on one occasion because he thought they had passed tools to the men through the gratings which they then used to get out of their irons and to try to rise up and capture the ship. (Talk given by Marcus Rediker in November 2007 at Merseyside Maritime Museum, Liverpool Museum)

The thumbscrews or pilliwinks is a torture instrument which was first used in medieval Europe. It is a simple vice, sometimes with protruding studs on the interior surfaces. The victim's thumbs or fingers were placed in the vice and slowly crushed. The thumbscrew was also applied to crush prisoners' big toes. The crushing bars were sometimes lined with sharp metal points to puncture the nails and inflict greater pain in the nail beds. Larger, heavier devices based on the same design principle were applied to crush knees and elbows.

Lloyds of London Insurance for the Slave Trade

Because in all of the whole human race
Mrs Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two
There's the one they put in his proper place
And the one with his foot in the other one's face
Look at me, Mrs Lovett, look at you. (Sweeney Todd lyrics)

A history of insurance starting with Lloyd’s of London

Lloyd’s of London is neither a company nor a corporation. It is basically a British insurance market. It serves as a meeting place where multiple financial backers or “members”, whether individuals, who are known as “Names” or corporations, come together to pool and spread risk. Their main business is in the reinsurance market.
The market began in Edward Lloyd’s coffeehouse around 1688 in Tower Street, London. His establishment was a popular place for sailors, merchants, and ship owners. Lloyd’s main business with his customers was to provide reliable shipping news, which he gleaned from all his different customers and then fed back to them. The shipping industry community frequented the place to discuss insurance deals among themselves.

Soon after Christmas in 1691, the coffee shop moved to Lombard Street, where today a blue plaque commemorates its location. Long after Lloyd’s death in 1713 the arrangement continued until 1774 when the participating members of the insurance arrangement formed a committee and moved to the Royal Exchange, and called itself The Society of Lloyd’s.

Between 1688 and 1807, slave trading became one of the primary constituents of all British trade, and the dangers in the slave trade meant that insurance of the ships was of major concern. The insurance of ships engaged in slave trading became one of the primary sources of Lloyd’s business as Britain established itself as the chief slave trading power in the Atlantic. With slave-trading forming such a prominent part of Lloyd’s business, the organization was one of the chief opponents to the abolition of the slave trade.

In 1838 the Exchange burned down and, although rebuilt, many of Lloyd’s early records were lost. In 1871, the first Lloyd’s Act was passed in Parliament which elevated the business to a legal footing. The Lloyd’s Act of 1911 set out the Society’s objectives, which include the promotion of its members’ interests and the collection and dissemination of information.

It soon became apparent that the membership of the Society, which was largely made up of market participants, was too small in relation to the risks that it was underwriting and the small market capitalization. Lloyd’s commissioned a secret internal inquiry, known as the Cromer Report, which reported in 1968. This report advocated the widening of membership to non-market participants, including non-British subjects and women, and to reduce the onerous capitalization requirements, which created a minor investor known as a ‘mini-Name’. (source: Health Insurance Net)

There's a hole in the world like a great black pit
and the vermin of the world inhabit it
and its morals aren't worth what a pig can spit
and it goes by the name of London...
At the top of the hole sit the privileged few
Making mock of the vermin in the lonely zoo
turning beauty to filth and greed...
I too have sailed the world and seen its wonders,
for the cruelty of men is as wondrous as Peru
but there's no place like London! (lyrics: "No Place Like London" from Sweeney Todd)

Richard Oswald: Slave trader, merchant

Richard Oswald: Slave trader, merchant and diplomat

Richard Oswald was the son of a Presbyterian minister. He was apprenticed to his cousins in Glasgow who had a successful trade in tobacco and he traveled to the Caribbean and the southern colonies of British North America on their behalf. In 1746 he moved to London and began his own business, initially supplying the army and Royal Navy as well as trading tobacco, but moving quickly into slaves and sugar. He augmented his business interests by marrying Mary Ramsay, the daughter of a wealthy Jamaican merchant. In 1747, he and several associates bought Bance (also Bunce or Bence) Island in the Sierra Leone river, one of the most active slave trading posts on the West African coast. Oswald built a golf course there for the benefit of white slave traders.
Bance (also Bunce or Bence) Island in the Sierra Leone river, one of the most active slave trading posts on the West African coast.
Oswald also acquired shares in slave ships, and plantations in the Caribbean, Florida and South Carolina. His ships could then carry slaves from Bance Island to plantations in the Americas and return to England with cargoes of sugar and tobacco. He was part of a group of Scottish merchants based in London who assisted each other financially, sharing their investments to spread the risk and ensure more reliable and consistent profits. Capital gained from investments in slavery financed investments in related products, such as tobacco and sugar production.

On July 25, 1782, official negotiations began. The preliminary articles were signed by Oswald for Great Britain, and John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, John Jay, and Henry Laurens for the United States on November 30, 1782. With almost no alterations, these articles were made into a treaty on September 3, 1783.

Most of the slaves Oswald traded were shipped to the southern colonies of British North America. One of his most important business associates there was the South Carolina planter and slave owner Henry Laurens. In 1781, Oswald lobbied successfully for Laurens' release after he was captured by the Royal Navy when he was returning from negotiating Dutch support for the American War of Independence. The following year, Oswald became an adviser to the British prime minister, Lord Shelburne. His knowledge of North America resulted in his appointment as one of the British negotiators at the 1783 Paris peace conference with the American colonies. Laurens was on the American team. The two sides agreed that the British should not take 'Negroes or other Property' from Americans when they withdrew from the American colonies.

Auchincruive House. Richard Oswald (a merchant from London, and a commissioner in Paris for peace negotiations with the Americans) bought the estate in 1764.
Oswald's London base was at Philpot Lane in the City of London, but his vast fortune enabled him to buy Auchincruive - an estate in Scotland where the Adam brothers built him a large house - as well as an extensive library and art collection. (BBC Business of Enslavement)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Slave Life in Rio

Slave Auction, Rio de Janeiro, 1859-1861

Standing on a chair, the auctioneer dominates the scene while an enslaved woman with a child clinging to her arm is examined by a prospective buyer. Other Afro-Brazilians (slaves?) are also shown; various material goods, including household furniture and musical instruments, are apparently being sold at the same auction (see also Biard05). Biard, a French painter, lived in Brazil for two years, 1859-1861. His published account contains a number of images of slave life...

Returning from a Slave Sale, Rio de Janeiro, 1859-1861

The slave owner, leading his horse while smoking a cigar and carrying an umbrella, heads a group of four adults and one child. One of the men carries household goods, including a clock and a musical instrument while the two women, one holding onto a child, are behind; bringing up the rear is an enslaved (?) man who appears to be guarding the newly-bought slaves. The material goods shown suggest that the auction was not only for the purchase of slaves but household items as well (see also Biard04). Biard, a French painter, lived in Brazil for two years, 1859-1861.

Gunsmith William Heard of Bristol

Arms dealer for the slave trade. William Heard, Gun Maker on Number 41 Redclift Street in Bristol, England. States that he makes hunting, coach and double barrel guns.

The ad continues: "Merchants supplied with guns and stores for the African, West Indies, and Newfoundland Trade as cheap as at any Warehouse in England."

This appears on a family tree site.

"Opposite the Globe we found Forge Cottage. The circular plaque can be seen to the left of the door. In the 1851 census there were two Smithies in Beaford. One was further along the road past the school where the garage is today, this was where William HEARD [6051] worked with two of his sons. Forge Cottage fits the position for Henry HAMMETT’s [10976] smithy. Henry’s first wife was William WESTCOTT’s daughter Jane."

"The above photograph shows the old Post Office on the corner of Green Lane. It was kept in 1906 by Mrs Thomas WESTCOTT (Kelly’s Directory), The Gunsmith’s Arms is adjoining the Post Office. The Gunsmith’s Arms has been kept by generations of HEARDs from Robert [6067] baptized in the parish church in 1780. He was a gunsmith. Robert had another brother, George who was also a gunsmith. They had two more brothers who were blacksmiths and yet another who was a glazier." (source:

Slave market at Pernambuco, Brazil

Gate and Slave market at Pernambuco, after Earle; view down street crowded with slaves, guarded by soldiers to right

Slave market at Pernambuco, Brazil. Includes black slaves sitting on the street while an auction is going on. Includes scene of beating, dwellings, sword, horse about to trample a baby, dog, and woman carrying a burden on her head.

Source creator: Callcott, Maria, Lady, 1785-1842
Source Title: Journal of a voyage to Brazil, and residence there, during part of the years 1821, 1822, 1823. By Maria Graham.
Source place of publication: London

The Slave market at Rio

The Slave market at Rio; street where buyers examine slaves, one of whom sits on ground in left foreground, child slaves being inspected by man wearing hat and striped trousers, dog to right, soldiers in distance. 1813

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Slave Market House: Louisville, Georgia

Journey to Louisville (pronounced Lewis-ville), Georgia and you are in for a history lesson. Site of the Georgia state capital during the Yazoo Land Fraud the city was near the center of the antebellum cotton industry. Completely rebuilt in the center of downtown Louisville is a market house where people would sell just about anything, including slaves. It is the only remaining slave-trading site in the state of Georgia, and was the largest slave market in the state for many years.

Originally built between 1795 and 1798, the market used by sheriffs and other officials as well as local folk to sell land and goods. But the dark side of this market is the African-American slave trade that fueled the local economy. When importation of slaves became illegal in 1808 the market in Savannah closed. Smugglers had to move their goods inland for sale, and the market at Louisville was very active in the illegal trade.

The market survived General Sherman's March to the Sea. A bell inside the market was cast for a New Orleans Convent, but never made it there. A pirate ship took it as booty and through an unknown series of events the bell ended up at Louisville. (source: Roadside Georgia)

Map of Louisville--First Planned Capital and Capitol

The commission appointed to choose the location of a new permanent capital city directed that it be built within 20 miles of the trading post called "Galphin’s Old Town" (or "Galphinton"), which was located in present day Jefferson County. The site finally selected was by a slave market located at the intersection of three roads leading to Augusta, Savannah, and Georgetown respectively. The slave market, built in 1758, is still standing. The Legislature directed that the name of the new capital be Louisville in honor of King Louis XVI of France as an expression of thanks for French aid during the Revolutionary War.
Louisville was Georgia’s first planned capital, and the city was to contain the state’s first capitol building built expressly for that purpose. The new state house was completed in 1796. Although there are no known paintings or drawings of this building, it is known that it was a two-story structure of 18th century Georgian architecture, and was made of red brick. Even before moving to the new capital, the Legislature designated Louisville the "permanent seat" of Georgia government. But by the early 1800s, further western expansion caused the Legislature to convene in yet another new "permanent" state capital. (source: Georgia Government State Archives)

William Wells Brown: The St. Louis Slave Market

William Wells Brown a former slave

William Wells Brown a former slave wrote: "I shall never forget a scene which took place in the city of St. Louis, while I was in slavery. A man and his wife, both slaves, were brought from the country to the city, for sale. They were taken to the rooms of Austin and Savage auctioneers."
St. Louis Courthouse Where Slaves Were Auctioned

"Several slave-speculators, who are always to be found at auctions where slaves are to be sold, were present. The man was first put up, and sold to the highest bidder. The wife was next ordered to ascend the platform. I was present. She slowly obeyed the order. The auctioneer commenced, and soon several hundred dollars were bid. My eyes were intensely fixed on the face of the woman, whose cheeks were wet with tears. But a conversation between the slave and his new master attracted my attention.

I drew near them to listen. The slave was begging his new master to purchase his wife. Said he, "Master, if you will only buy Fanny, I know you will get the worth of your money. She is a good cook, a good washer, and her last mistress liked her very much. If you will only buy her how happy I shall be." The new master replied that he did not want her but if she sold cheap he would purchase her. I watched the countenance of the man while the different persons were bidding on his wife. When his new master bid on his wife you could see the smile upon his countenance, and the tears stop; but as soon as another would bid, you could see the countenance change and the tears start afresh."

Reenactment of a Slave Auction in St. Louis, MO

"From this change of countenance one could see the workings of the inmost soul. But this suspense did not last long; the wife was struck off to the highest bidder, who proved not to be the owner of her husband. As soon as they became aware that they were to be separated, they both burst into tears; and as she descended from the auction-stand, the husband, walking up to her and taking her by the hand, said, "Well, Fanny, we are to part forever, on earth; you have been a good wife to me. I did all that I could to get my new master to buy you; but he did not want you, and all I have to say is, I hope you will try to meet me in heaven. I shall try to meet you there." The wife made no reply, but her sobs and cries told, too well, her own feelings. I saw the countenances of a number of whites who were present, and whose eyes were dim with tears at hearing the man bid his wife farewell."

"Such are but common occurrences in the slave states. At these auction-stands, bones, muscles, sinews, blood and nerves, of human beings, are sold with as much indifference as a farmer in the north sells a horse or sheep." --William Wells Brown


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