Credit: Cosmopolitan Magazine [number 38, December 1904]
Media type: engraving
Annotation: Though the Atlantic slave trade ceased legally importing slaves on 1 January 1808, the earliest date allowed by the US Constitution, the practice of slavery and the sale of slaves in the United States continued until President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on the first day of 1863. Auctions in which men, women and children were sold as property offered an opportunity for slave owners to expand their labor force with the purchase of new slaves, or to relieve the economic strain of having too many. The largest recorded slave auction in the United States took place on 3 March 1859, when 456 people were sold at a racetrack in Savannah, Georgia. While special instructions were given for families to be sold together, it was not uncommon for siblings and grandparents to be excluded from this agreement. The first sale of the auction offered a married couple named George and Sue along their two children for $600.