The 'Story of the Slave' 'Sale of Sugar Plantation & Slaves'

This advertisement for the ‘sale’ of a ‘sugar plantation’ in 1852 reads:

‘Sale of Sugar Plantation & Slaves. By J. A. Beard & May: Will be sold at Auction on Monday, January 12, 1852, at 12 o’clock; At the St. Louis Hotel Rotunda, N.O.’

The advertisement states that the sale was due to take place at ‘BELLECHASSE PLANTATION’, a ‘Splendid SUGAR PLANTATION’ that was located ‘about 16 miles below New Orleans.’

In stark contrast to the vast majority of ‘slave auction’ advertisements which provide no information which would individualise enslaved women, children, and men, this document lists the ‘names and ages’ of the ‘129 Slaves’ and, in some instances, sheds light on their labouring history.

The white enslavers’ sole purpose of including any information regarding the working lives of these individuals was self-evidently solely to secure the highest possible profit from their sale. Documents such as this are an invaluable resource for researchers trying to learn more about the daily lives of enslaved people: but only if used carefully and in full knowledge of their rootedness in a historical context in which white ownership and enslavement of Black lives was the legal reality and a white supremacist ideology was the dominant order of the day.

As you see here, this advertisement records the devastating and dehumanising reality that not only were women, children and men bought and sold, but they were bought and sold in the same auctioneer’s lot as the ‘stock of Mules, Cattles, Horses, and Agricultural Implements.’

It is only by studying traumatising documents such as this in which enslaved women, men and children were denied all humanity that we can begin to understand the full extent of slavery’s traumatising and dehumanising power as an institution that eradicated, annihilated, persecuted and tortured Black lives out of existence. Frederick Douglass despised and protested against these dehumanizing documents which he called ‘chattel records.’