Enslaved people were sold at auctions to individuals that bid the most money for them. Family members could be split up because a bidder may not want to buy the whole family, only the strongest, healthiest member. Slave auctions were advertised when it was known that a slave ship was due to arrive. When the ship docked, the enslaved people would be taken from the ship and placed in a pen until the auction. This advertisement was created for an auction in Georgia in 1859.
- Why would someone want to own someone else?
- What work might a enslaved person do for their owner? What does this advertisement tell us about slavery in the United States during the 1800s? Whose perspective does it show? Whose is missing?
- Compare this document to the image of the enslaved people on the "Wildfire" slave ship. How can the text of the advertisement help to understand the conditions of the people on slave ships?
"To be sold, on board the ship Bance Island, ... negroes, just arrived from the Windward & Rice Coast," ca. 1780. Courtesy of Library of Congress