Blog 7

This is a one sided long piece of paper. This document is an advertisement for a slave auction. 13 slaves were available for auction that day. This is from Alabama at the St. Louis Hotel. The auctioneers name was N. Vignie and this was set to take place on March 25, 1858. The slaves that were up for auction were named: Absalom, Ned, Tom, Bill, Frank, Alfred, Polly, George, Dan, Lewis, Firman, Mary, and Jim. Each person up for auction also came with a brief description of abilities, skill, and “defects”.

These people up “for sale” were considered property. Forced against their will to work for others. Each person comes with an inhumane and animalistic description of their capabilities. For example: No. 5  Frank, aged about 25 years, plantation hand, fully guaranteed, except for a burn on his back and right side. The way these people are talked about is like a product review on amazon. It is also quite obvious to see the different gender roles displayed within this document. Men are described more often as “plantation hands and accustomed to work in a brick yard” whereas some women are described as “Washer and good house servant and fair cook”. These gender roles are still somewhat apparent in todays society as well. The describe the slaves as fully guaranteed except defects stated above. This seems to be similar to when you buy a product at a store and they have a money back guarantee and it is the owners promising they are good slaves except for the problems that were already mentioned like frank’s burns. This is shocking to read in modern times because it sounds very unbelievable that this was ever a reality. People used to be other’s property and they could sell them. Its purpose and meaning are very straight forward since it is not a subjective piece of art, it is strictly an advertisement for people which is very obvious in its intent.


2 thoughts on “Blog 7

  1. I really enjoyed reading about your object label and your thoughts and interpretations about this source. It is a striking piece of print culture that illustrates the dehumanization of slavery and reduction of people into the value of their labor. I think what particularly stood out to me was the listing of “defects” of each person– physical ailments that might impact their ability to work. As you suggest, all of these elements construct value and reinforces the commodification of humans. At the same time however, we can read between the lines of this document to slowly gather the identities of who these people were, their names, and ages. One listing was for an entire family. This source may leave us with more questions than answers, but it is a strong historical source. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this!

  2. This advertisement poster for the auction you chose seems about right to understand slavery in the United States, specifically in the southern region. When thinking about the posters in the mid 19th century, it struck upon me the era of circuses in the United States. About PT Barnum and other famous railroad circuses such as the Ringling Bros. These railroad circuses advertised themselves using posters in a city before they had arrived. It wonders me whether the circuses participated in such auctions because they needed such huge manpower to portray a luxurious display of exotic animals and their acts. I understand this is not related to slavery, but I think it would be great to research upon this topic and retrieve information to answer the research question: “Whether or not the circuses were involved in slave trade within the United States of America”. We can also use Voyant software and other visualisations to answer this research question after we find the necessary documents.

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