Images of Slavery – Slaves Waiting for Sale


In May 1861, the Royal Academy of Arts in London opened a new exhibition of paintings. Among the works on display was “Slaves Waiting for Sale” by Eyre Crowe, based on a sketch the English artist had made in March 1853 while visiting the slave market in Richmond, Virginia. Below is the sketch:


Eyre’s painting was well received by London art critics who viewed the Royal Academy exhibition in May 1861. It is yet another example of the English interest in American slavery as the United States descended into civil war, already documented in Civil War Emancipation in its editions of February 16 and April 6. Images that Americans either found common or merely wanted to ignore, the English consumed with fascination through art exhibitions and the illustrated press. With slavery abolished in the British Empire, they could afford their voyeuristic attitude as the peculiar institution tore apart their former colonies in North America. Soon the English public, and Americans too, would be confronted with images of slavery’s demise as the war began to undermine it. But in May 1861, Eyre Crowe confronted his nation with a painting depicting American slavery as entrenched as it was inhumane.

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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