Slavery was practiced in British North America from early colonial days, and was recognized in the Thirteen Colonies at the time of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. After the Revolutionary War, abolitionist sentiment gradually spread in the Northern states, while the rapid expansion of the cotton industry from 1800 led to the Southern states strongly identifying with slavery, and attempting to extend it into the new Western territories.
The monetary value of enslaved Africans in any given American auction-block during the mid-18th century ranged between $800 and $1,200, which in modern times would be equivalent to $32,000 to $48,000.
When Abraham Lincoln won the 1860 election on a ticket of no new slave states, the South finally broke away to form the Confederacy. This marked the start of the Civil War, which caused a huge disruption of Southern life, with many slaves either escaping or being liberated by the Union armies. The war effectively ended slavery, before the Thirteenth Amendment formally outlawed the institution throughout the United States.
2. This photo of a black Union soldier posted at a slave auction house in Atlanta is one of hundreds taken by George N. Barnard during Gen. Sherman's occupation of the city in the fall of 1864.
3. Copy of original bill of sale for slaves, in Charleston, South Carolina.
4. A group of men posing in front of Lynch’s Slave Market, St. Louis, Missouri, 1852
5. Former slave with Slave Horn with which slaves were called. Marshall,Texas 1939.
6. Scars of a whipped slave April 2, 1863, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
7. Part of the machinery to capture escaped slaves.
8. Slave ship schematic detailing how to fit 454 slaves on a ship. Mortality rate on the middle passage between Africa and the new world was around 15%, killing an estimated at up to 2,000,000 souls.
9. ca. 1860-70’s, portrait of a casually posed gentleman, escaped from slavery. Inscription on verso reads “Lewis, who came from the south with Langhorn 1863”
10. In 1863 much of Louisiana was occupied by the Union army. Ninety-five schools serving over 9,500 students, including almost half of the black children in the state, were running under its auspices at great cost. The National Freedman's Association, in collaboration with the American Missionary Association and interested officers of the Union Army, launched a new propaganda campaign. Five children and three adults, all former slaves from New Orleans, were sent to the North on a publicity tour. The authors of this campaign were pursuing a surprising, and quite effective, strategy for arousing sympathy for blacks--they portrayed them as white.
11. Slave auction attended by southern "gentlemen"
12. A former slave and body servant, Bass Reeves accompanied his master who fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War. During or soon after the battle at Pea Ridge, Reeves escaped his master and lived among the Creeks and Seminoles until after the war and emancipation. Fluent in several Native languages, skilled in firearms, physically powerful, and highly intelligent, Reeves would rise to eventually become "the most feared US marshall in Indian Territory."
13. This man, Renty, was an African-born slave owned by B.F. Taylor from Columbia, South Carolina when this portrait was taken in 1850.
14. Rescued east African slaves aboard HMS Daphne, a British Royal Navy vessel involved in anti-slave trade activities in the Indian Ocean.
15. Rhoda Ray was born a slave about 1824; she and her children were owned by John Ray. During the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, on August 10, 1861, Rhoda and her children helped treat the wounded after the Ray house was occupied as a Southern field hospital. Rhoda was freed in 1865, and moved to Springfield, Missouri.
16. Harriet Tubman with rescued slaves- Auburn, NY, circa 1887.
17. Convention of former slaves. Annie Parram, age 104; Anna Angales, age 105; Elizabeth Berkeley, 125; Sadie Thompson, 110. Washington, D.C., 1916.
18. 88-year-old Mrs. Sally Fickland, a former slave, looking at the Emancipation Proclamation in 1947, which was signed when she was 3.
19. After escaping from slavery, he pricked the nation’s conscience with an eloquent accounting of its crimes.
20. Sojourner Truth (1797 – November 26, 1883) was the self-given name, from 1843 onward, of Isabella Baumfree, an African-American abolitionist and women's rights activist. Truth was born into slavery in Swartekill, Ulster County, New York, but escaped with her infant daughter to freedom in 1826. After going to court to recover her son, she became the first black woman to win such a case against a white man.
21. To My Old Master: A former slave’s letter in response to his old master’s request to work for him again.
Slavery is no longer legal anywhere in the world, though human trafficking remains an international problem. An estimated 30 million persons are living in illegal slavery today.