Slave Selling In the
Upper South, half or more of the slave families were permanently broken by sales. For
greater detail about slave selling in the Mountain South, see pp. 1-13, 15-16, 20-27
of these Tables.
Click the red button to view each illustration.
Map of U.S. Slave Trading Routes Source: Wilma A. Dunaway. 2003. The
African-American Family in Slavery and Emancipation. (New York: Cambridge University
Press, p. 21). This map is copyrighted and CANNOT be used without permission from the
publisher. Contact the author.
An eighteenth-century shipload of Africans to be auctioned at Charleston, South Carolina.
Source: Virginia Gazette, 3 March 1768
This east Kentucky slaveholder was migrating westward, so he sold off 23 slaves at
public auction in Lexington. Only one of the adults is being sold with her child. Note
that 17 children younger than twenty are being sold separate from their parents. When they
were interviewed in the 1930s, many of the Appalachian ex-slaves said they had been sold
away from parents during childhood. Source: Coleman Papers, University of Kentucky
The Southern Mountains lay at the geographical heart of the domestic slave trade, so slave
coffles were a common sight in Appalachian counties. This coffle had camped for the night,
waiting to cross the New River in southwest Virginia. Source: Featherstonhough, Excursion,
vol. 1, p. 121
Through several forced labor migration strategies, Upper South masters structured
the absence of adult males from slave households. This father has been sold away from his
wife and children. After emancipation, almost none of the spouses separated by such sales
were able to reunite. Source: Library of Congress
Appalachian masters exported slaves to the Lower South by using the services of
auction houses at trading hubs, such as this one in Richmond. Such interstate sales broke
two of every five slave marriages. Source: Illustrated London News, 27 September
To produce surplus slave laborers for export to the Lower South, Appalachian
slaveholders engaged in reproductive exploitation in several forms. In addition to a high
child mortality rate, mothers endured the horrors of having one of every three of their
children sold away before age fifteen, as in this sketch of a family separation.
Source: Library of Congress
In the 1850s, western North Carolina slaves were bought and hired for railroad
construction. Source: Asheville News, 10 February 1859
A travelling speculator buying slaves at
Christiansburg, Virginia Source: Lewis Miller Sketchbook, Virginia Historical
A slave announcing a slave auction in Galveston, Texas Source: Scribner's 7 (4) (1874): p.
1861 Slave Auction at Richmond Source: Library of
The slave pen at Price, Birch, and Company,
Dealers in Slaves, Alexandria, Virginia Source: Library of Congress
A slave coffle through Washington, DC, 1815 Source: Library of Congress
A slave coffle heading southward out of
Staunton, Virginia, 1853 Source: Lewis Miller Sketchbook, Virginia Historical Society
Slave Hiring In the
Upper South, owners engaged in slave hiring much more frequently than they sold slaves.
Slave hiring separated slave families by great distance and time. Slaves hired out by the
year visited their families only once a year at Christmas. Hired slaves escaped to the
free states at a much greater rate than did those who remained on the plantations of
their owners. Male slaves were hired out about 4 times more frequently than women, no
doubt accounting for the low frequency at which female slaves escaped permanently.
For greater detail about slave hiring in the Mountain South, see pp. 14, 20, 23 of these Tables.
Click the red button to view each illustration.
Hired slaves provided much of the labor for antebellum travel enterprises,
comprised of resorts, hotels, inns, transportation companies, and the livestock drover
trade. During the summers, Appalachian slaves were regularly hired to work at 134 mineral
spas, such as these workers at White Sulphur Springs in West Virginia. Source: Harper's,
Slave roustabouts, like these Chattanooga workers, provided most of the labor for
river steamboats. Such long-term hireouts kept husbands away from their families much of
the year. Source: Harper's, 1855
Hired slaves, like these western Carolina shaft borers, comprised a significant
segment of the inter-ethnic labor force that propelled the country=s first gold rush in
the Southern Mountains. Source: Harper's, 1857
Slaves supplied most of the labor to produce Appalachia's salt, one of the region's
most important exports to the Lower South and the Midwest. At this salt manufactory in
southwest Virginia, hired slaves did most of the skilled work, such as kettle tending
(right) and boiler tending (left). Source: Harper's, 1857
Hired slaves in lumber camps, like this West Virginia enterprise, lived in
temporary lean-tos, ate a diet of fat pork and wild game, and were exposed to numerous
injuries and water-borne infectious diseases. Source: Harper's, 1851
Because they profited less from their field labor, Appalachian masters hired out a
higher proportion of their slaves than did Lower South plantations. For example, mountain
Virginia masters hired out surplus slaves to tobacco manufactories, like this one in
Lynchburg. Source, Scribner's, 1874
Steamboats that plied Appalachian rivers hired hundreds of mountain slaves. These
slaves are dragging the steamboat through an area called "the sucks" on the
Tennessee River near Chattanooga. Because these annual contracts kept males away from home
most of the year, these abroad fathers rarely interacted with their children who remained
in female-headed households on small plantations. Source: Bryant, Picturesque America
Hired steamboat roustabouts catching a brief rest from loading and unloading at
Charleston, West Virginia. In addition to the dangers of bad food, frequent injuries, and
lung infections from dampness and mold, such hireouts exposed Appalachian slaves to
frequent epidemics of malaria, smallpox, typhoid, and cholera. Source: Harper's, 1855
Hired slaves and Irish immigrants provided most of the labor to build antebellum
railroads in the Mountain South. Source: Colyer, Brief Report, p. 165
Other Sources of Slave Trading Images
these Websites for Slave Trading Illustrations
Antebellum issues of Harper's and 1870s's issues of Scribner's are good
sources of slavery illustrations. Both periodicals can be accessed online at the Making of America Project.
Search the Library of
Congress online catalog. This collection includes photographs of significant buildings
and historical sites, in addition to reproductions of drawings that appeared in antebellum
newspapers and periodicals.
following 19th century books include slavery illustrations:
Bryant. William C. 1872-1874. Picturesque America. New York: D. Appleton
Featherstonhough, G.W. 1844. Excursion through the Slave States. 2 vols.
following contemporary books provide slave trading illustrations:
Walter Johnson. 1999. Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave
Market. Harvard University Press.
Anne P. Malone. 1992. Sweet Chariot: Slave Family and Household Structure
in 19th Century Louisiana. University of North Carolina Press. (after p. 202)
Marie J. Schwartz. 2000. Born in Bondage: Growing Up in the Antebellum
South. Harvard University Press. (a few at center of book)