At the slave auction
In the years before the Civil War, the first day of the new year was often a heartbreaking one for enslaved people in the United States. The renting out of slave labor was a relatively common practice in the antebellum South, and a profitable practice for white slave owners and hirers. Some enslaved people were put up for auction that day, or held under contracts that started in January. These transactions also took place all year long and contracts could last for different amounts of time. These deals were conducted privately among families, friends and business contacts, and slaves were handed over in town squares, on courthouse steps and sometimes simply on the side of the road, according to Divided Mastery: Slave Hiring in the American South by Jonathan D. Accounts of the cruelty of Hiring Day come from records left by those who secured their freedom, who described spending the day before January 1 hoping and praying that their hirers would be humane and that their families could stay together.
For Sale to the Highest Bidder
The Great Slave Auction - Wikipedia
In March of , the largest sale of human beings in the history in the United States took place at a racetrack in Savannah, Georgia. During the two days of the sale, raindrops fell unceasingly on the racetrack. It was almost as though the heavens were crying. So, too, fell teardrops from many of the men, women, and children who were auctioned off during the two days. Other Butler properties were sold as well. But it was not enough to satisfy creditors, much less to ensure that Butler would continue to live in luxury. At the time, the overall holdings of the Butler family included slaves.
Slave auction catalog from Louisiana, 1855
Many women were. Belittled to a point where they were considered property, slaves possessed essentially no rights in the cruel world of the antebellum South. Prohibited from exercising numerous basic freedoms, slaves lacked the simple liberty of citizenship of the country in which they lived. The enforcement of harsh laws, such as the master's ability to kill their slaves, required colored people to endure substantial oppression. Mulatto children born to parents of two different statuses would assume the ranking.
Sarah Elizabeth Adams was around 5 when her mother was sold to a slave dealer in Lynchburg, Va. The auction took place in the mids, in the town of Marion, Va. Sallie, as she was called, was herself sold that day, but not with her mother: A man named Thomas Thurman purchased Sallie to take care of his sick wife. She would never see her mother again. For the remainder of her childhood, whenever she could, Sallie would slip away and find solace under a tall white-oak tree.