Royal Naval Museum


A slave auction

Illustrated London News, February 16, 1861, vol. 38, p.139

‘The auction rooms for the sale of Negroes are situated in the main streets and are generally the ground floors of the building… “Negroes for sale at auction this day at ten o’clock”…Being a little before the time fixed for the auction, I had a good opportunity to look at the crowd of men about me who dealt in human flesh and I am bound to say I saw nothing very dreadful in their appearance; they carried neither revolvers nor whips. They were not a gentlemanly looking lot certainly but seemed quiet, respectable people such as one might meet at a sale of books or old china in any part of London.

This was the first human being I had ever seen sold, and during the time of the biddings I felt the greatest difficulty I preventing myself from fainting.'

(Reported from Virginia, 1861).