A Slave Auction in Virginia


The Illustrated London News (Feb. 16, 1861), vol. 38, p.139.


This engraving shows a man and woman (with a child in her arms) on an auction block, surrounded by white men. The special correspondent, G.H. Andrews, provides a lengthy eyewitness description of slave sales in Richmond. He explains how "The auction rooms for the sale of Negroes are situated in the main streets, and are generally the ground floors of the building; the entrance-door opens straight into the street, and the sale room is similar to any other auction room . . . placards, advertisements, and notices as to the business carried on are dispensed with, the only indications of the trade being a small red flag hanging from the front door post, and a piece of paper upon which is written . . . this simple announcement - 'Negroes for sale at auction.'" Andrews also describes in detail the scene shown in the illustration and the auction process (pp. 138 -140). A composite engraving, combining the auction block and people on the right shown in this image with the image of a slave being inspected for sale (see image NW0027) was published in the French publication L'illustration, Journal Universel (vol. 37 [1861], p. 148), misleadingly giving the impression that the scene is an original depiction of a slave sale in South Carolina. This illustration, in turn, reappears on the Mary Evans Picture Library website with an unattributed source (picture no. 10044451).

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