Sunday, October 29, 2017

Bacon Tait - Richmond Slave Trader



Yesterday I received the latest addition to my personal library in the mail. I'm presently working my way through another volume so I have not yet dived into it, but the title had me hooked from my first reading it: The Secret Life of Bacon Tait, a White Slave Trader Married to a Free Woman of Color, by Hank Trent, and which was published just this year from LSU Press.

I won't write out a biography of Tait, as that has been completed well by the folks at the Encyclopedia of Virginia. However, I thought I'd share a couple of advertisements that it took me only a couple of minutes to find in the Richmond Daily Dispatch in the August 27, 1852, edition.

Although one is for a family of three and the other is for a woman on her child, the two advertisements have a commonality in that both notices state that the enslaved individuals are not to be removed from Richmond. Apparently, Tait had no compunction with participating in the interstate slave trade in other instances, but for whatever reason, these bond people were apparently not to be removed from the city.

Perhaps the former owners had sold them to Tait with that strict stipulation, or perhaps Tait was serving as the selling agent for the owners who only agreed to sell them under that condition. We cannot know for certain.

The end wording of the first shown advertisement is interesting: "all of excellent character, strictly honest and sold for no fault." This domestic enslaved family's sale was only enhanced by such a description. Having honest servants was something all masters desired. A statement of "excellent character" only increased Tait's chance of a successful sale.

The other notice, for a forty-two year old woman and her eight year old child (interestingly no gender given), who were also domestics, seems to have a bit of conditional statement on the non-movement request: "if early application is made." Does this mean that if the woman and child do not quickly sell, they are not subject remain in "Richmond or the neighborhood?" With domestic house skills such as "plain cooking and washing and the dairy," one suspects that in an urban environment like Richmond, a new owner could be quickly found. But, that just a suspicion.

I'm looking forward to reading the Trent book to see if any insight is given into advertisements like these two posted by Tait and learning more about his relationship with free woman of color Courtney Fountain. Isn't history just fascinating?

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