Monday, November 18, 2013

Sold for no Fault

Last November I presented a paper on my research on Kentuckians' reactions to John Brown's raid at the Symposium on the 19th Century Press, the Civil War and Free Expression at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.  At last year's symposium I was surprised and, of course, happy to receive recognition for that paper being selected as one of the top three submitted.

This year I submitted a paper again and I was pleased to have it accepted for presentation. I was even more surprised this year when I was again given an award for this particular paper, titled "Telling Testimony: Slavery Advertisements in Kentucky's Civil War Newspapers."

In my presentation I provided a number of the advertisements that I had located during my research to help illustrate and provide evidence for my findings via PowerPoint. One of the ads I showed is pictured above. I included this particular notice to help show how arbitrary slave owners could be when they needed liquid cash.

This ad ran in the March 26, 1861, edition of the Lexington Kentucky Statesman. It clearly expresses the owners intent. He or she was selling this unnamed "No. 1 NEGRO WOMAN" at the Fayette County Courthouse door and obviously needed the hard cash worth of the enslaved woman more than he had for her use.

"I will put you in my pocket," was a threat used by more than one owner to warn slaves to behave. This ad shows that those threats were sometimes not empty. When crops failed, a bet on a horse race or cock fight was lost, or cash was needed for another emergency purchase of some kind, slave owners knew they had a ready means for raising funds. Whether sales divided husbands from wives or children from parents, those considerations were often secondary to the need for cash in hand.

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