Slave Auction, New Orleans, 1839


James Buckingham, The Slave States of America (London, 1842), vol. 1, facing title page (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)


Caption, Sale of Estates, Pictures and Slaves in the Rotunda, New Orleans. James Buckingham visited New Orleans for about a month in early 1839. During this period he went to one of the city's grander hotels, the St. Louis hotel, sometimes called the French Exchange. Within this hotel was the Rotunda, a very large and ornate room in which auctions are held for every description of goods. During his visit several auctioneers were competing with each other and selling various goods, among them slaves. These consisted, he wrote, of an unhappy negro family, who were all exposed to the hammer at the same time. Their good qualities were enumerated in English and in French, and their persons were carefully examined by intending purchasers, among whom they were ultimately disposed of, chiefly to Creole buyers . . . The middle of the Rotunda was filled with casks, boxes, bales, and crates; the negroes exposed for sale were put to stand on these, to be the better seen by persons attending the sale (pp. 334-335).

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