Online Link: https://nmaahc.si.edu/object/nmaahc_2011.104.31?destination=edan-search/collection_search%3Fedan_q%3D%252A%253A%252A%26edan_fq%255B0%255D%3Dtopic%253A%2522Slavery%2522%26edan_fq%255B1%255D%3Dplace%253A%2522North%2520and%2520Central%2520America%2522%26edan_local%3D1
Museum Label: This document is a receipt for the purchase of a slave in Essex County, Virginia. This transaction occurred in 1826 and the slave was purchased by the head of the Rouzze family plantation, Edward Rouzee, in regard to the death of the slave’s former master Mr. James Thomas. This receipt also describes that this slave was purchased for four dollars and fifty cents which is equivalent to about one hundred dollars today.
I picked this historical piece because it is so crazy to me how a person how a person once had value as an item that could be purchased and sold. Of course I knew that slaves were purchased and traded, but seeing an actual receipt for a human being shocks me and affirms even further what I already knew was true. Another interesting detail about this document is that it shows how much a slave was worth during the 1820s which is not highlighted too much in history classes. After learning some inflation history and researching, I learned that four dollars and fifty cents is equal to one hundred dollars on the present-day scale.
I think this document is significant because it shows just how real and normalized slavery was. Again, we all know that slavery happened, but seeing documents such as this receipt shows how twisted American minds were. This document shows just how normal selling people as property was, it was not seen as racist or hateful but as a way of life. When we see receipts nowadays it’s for products we buy at the grocery store or mall and that is exactly how human beings were seen just over one hundred years ago, as items made to be sold for profit and used for personal gain.
It is truly amazing how documents like this were found and able to be preserved in museums because documents, especially receipts, are often thrown away. It is important for products of history to be analyzed and kept in museums because people can continue to learn new things everyday. By going to museums, digitally or in person, and looking at documents that we are not shown to us in schools, we can learn more about why certain subjects are sensitive and deserve to be talked about more.