Auction place.

“For hundreds of years, enslaved people were bought and sold in America. Today most of the sites of this trade are forgotten.” Thus began the 12 February 2020 installation of The 1619 Project, the New York Times‘ initiative that aims to reframe American history by centering African-Americans in the narrative. Wrote Dr. Anne C. Bailey, author of The Weeping Time: Memory and the Largest Slave Auction in American History, “Auctions and the sales of enslaved people could be found near or along the major ports where enslaved Africans landed, including Richmond, Va.; New Orleans; Savannah, Ga.; and Charleston, S.C. But the enslaved were also sold in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and at New York City’s 18th-century open-air Meal Market on Wall Street. The sales took place all over the growing nation — in taverns, town squares and train stations, on riverbanks and by the side of the road. Before being sold, the enslaved were often kept in pens or private jails, sometimes for days or weeks. Then they were sold directly from the pens or marched to a nearby auction. Thousands of sales took place each year, right in the hearts of American cities and towns, on the steps of courthouses and city halls.”

In order to create “a more equitable map of American history,” an afterword to Bailey’s piece asks us to help fill in the record by reporting known sites at which enslaved African-Americans were auctioned. I have done so.

One of the earliest posts at Black Wide-Awake displays the 1856 report of Benjamin Bynum to a Wilson County court of the proceeds of the sale of Cate and Sherard at the White Oak tollhouse on the Plank Road. James R. Barnes had bought them for $450.20. I don’t know the exact location of the tollhouse, but it is reasonable to believe that it stood near the spot where the Plank Road between Wilson and Greenville crossed the Buck Branch of White Oak Swamp just west of Saratoga.

Highway 264-Alternate now follows the path of the Plank Road. Here was White Oak Swamp from the Highway 264-Alternate bridge yesterday.

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2020.

2 comments

  1. What steps should one take if they suspect an African-American auction site? Getting it verified and included in the canon?

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    1. Unfortunately, I suspect that verification will almost always rely on one’s own diligent sleuthing. The Times piece includes a form for reporting info re auction sites. I reported this one, but I’m not sure what happens after that. I need to review all my docs to determine if I can deduce more sites.

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