10 Disturbing Things About Slave Auctions in America You May Not Know


auction house

A Store for Selling Enslaved People

Instead of putting the enslaved people up at auction, sometimes the seller would keep them together in a house or pen and put a sign out from, informing traders that he had on hand blacksmiths, carpenters, field-hands — and also sickly ones, whom he would sell very cheap, according to an account by Henry Watson. Buyers would come by and one by one the men and women would be taken away, sometimes over the course of weeks.



slave family

The Skin Test for the Elders

Bibb, the enslaved Black man who had escaped to Canada and then returned to the South to free his wife and child — only to be recaptured in Kentucky and sold with them in New Orleans — gave an account of a slave sale. He said because it is hard to tell the ages of enslaved Black people, prospective buyers would look in their mouths at their teeth and pricked up the skin on the back of their hands. If the person is very far advanced in life, he said, when the skin is pricked up, the pucker will stand so many seconds on the back of the hand.

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