Slave Trade Images – Feb. 16, 1861

In the February 16, 1861 issue of The Illustrated London News the following two images appeared.  Both depict moments from a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia.  For decades before the Civil War, a lively internal slave trade flourished in the United States that transported hundreds of thousands of slaves from the older slave states to the growing cotton states.  It separated innumerable slave families, often never to see each other again, which perhaps explains the worried body language of the young slave family on the auction block in the first illustration.

Fear of the trade would play a role in the efforts of slaves to use the Civil War to escape bondage, the first recorded instance of which was about a month after the publication date of the aforementioned images.

The above images can be found on the web at:, sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the University of Virginia Library.

About Donald R. Shaffer

Donald R. Shaffer is the author of _After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans_ (Kansas, 2004), which won the Peter Seaborg Award for Civil War Scholarship in 2005. More recently he published (with Elizabeth Regosin), _Voices of Emancipation: Understanding Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction through the U.S. Pension Bureau Files_ (2008). Dr. Shaffer teaches online exclusively (i.e., a virtual professor). He lives in Arizona and can be contacted at
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3 Responses to Slave Trade Images – Feb. 16, 1861

  1. Margaret D. Blough says:

    To me, one book that is essential to read on this subject is Frederic Bancroft’s “Slave Trading in the Old South”. Originally published in 1931, Bancroft had been researching it for decades and interviewed many who, as adults, had been involved in all aspects of the trade. The University of South Carolina Press has an excellent 1996 reprint of it with an excellent new introduction by Michael Tadman.

  2. Adebanjo Ariyo says:

    Am always facinated about this slave trade pictures,bcz they show what we went tru to get where we are today.

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