Inside the Great Slave Auction

FROM THE PLATFORM, auctioneer William Walsh greeted the 200 bidders milling in the large hall with one side open to cold March winds and announced the first item for sale—a Negro family standing on the platform, available for inspection. Would-be purchasers studied the catalogue, which identified the lot on offer:

George, age 27, Prime Cotton Planter
Sue, 26, Prime Cotton Planter
George, 6, Boy Child
Harry, 2, Boy Child
Walsh started the bidding at $300 per head, cajoling the men milling on the floor to compete with one another until somebody had bought the whole family for $2,400. As the slaves stepped down to meet their new owner, Walsh gaveled the next lot onto the platform. Bidders carefully inspected the slaves, checking arm and leg muscles, ordering each to walk and squat, pulling open mouths to reveal teeth. A slave named Primus stepped onto the platform with his wife Daphney, their three-year old daughter, and a newborn. Daphney had wrapped a


Advertisement placed by slave dealer Joseph Bryan invites buyers to inspect the slaves offered for sale in the huge auction. (The Savannah Morning News)

blanket around her shoulders and the baby she clutched to her breast. This pose irked some bidders.

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