Sale of an Enslaved Woman and Her Children, Suriname, ca. 1831

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This record was last updated on 03 May 2012

Image Reference

Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage a Surinam . . . cent dessins pris sur nature par l'auteur (Bruxelles, 1839), plate xliii, fig. 89. (Copy in the John Carter Brown Library at Brown University)

Captioned "vente d'une esclave (sale of a slave), Benoit describes this sale and gives some of its background. A European friend of his had lived with a young and very beautiful creole slave woman by whom he had two children and who he intended to marry; the woman was considered by all as the mistress of the household. The friend had promised to free/manumit her, but he died on the very day that he was going to town to process the manumission papers. Thus, the woman and her children were still enslaved and were sold by the will's executors. Benoit writes how this sale was a truly sad and heartbreaking spectacle to witness; in fact, he says, the woman brought tears to the eyes of all who knew her and who had considered her as a legitimate wife and free woman (p. 55). Benoit (1782-1854), a Belgian artist, visited Suriname around 1831 and apparently stayed for several months. The 100 lithographs in his book (hand colored in the John Carter Brown copy), accompanied by textual descriptions of varying detail, are derived from drawings he made during his visit, which included time in Paramaribo, the capital, as well as trips into the interior visiting Maroons and Amerindians. Forty of his lithographs, with our translations from the French text, are shown on this website.