Exhibition - Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 to 1865

Tuesday, Jul 24, 2018 from 10:00am to 4:00pm


Purchased Lives’ examines the period between America’s 1808 abolishment of the international slave trade and the end of the Civil War, during which an estimated two million people were forcibly moved among the nation’s states and territories. The domestic trade wreaked new havoc on the lives of enslaved families, as owners and traders in the Upper South—Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC—sold and shipped surplus laborers to the developing Lower South—Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. Many of those individuals passed through New Orleans, which was the largest slave market in antebellum America. The exhibition examines a complex and divisive period of American history, helping viewers learn about the economic and heartbreaking impact of the domestic slave trade.

The display consists of 10 panels, which allows for travel. The informative yet vibrant design will feature reproductions of period artifacts such as broadsides, paintings and prints illustrating the domestic slave trade, as well as ship manifests, financial documents and first-person accounts conveying the trade’s reach into all levels of antebellum society. Large-scale reproductions of post–Civil War “Lost Friends” ads depict the attempts of former slaves to reunite with loved ones, even as much as 50 years after the war.

Purchased Lives’ connects the economic narrative of American slavery to the firsthand experiences of the men, women, and children whose lives were shattered by the domestic slave trade,” said Erin M. Greenwald, curator of the exhibition and now curator of programs at the New Orleans Museum of Art. “The panel version allows THNOC the opportunity to bring this story to communities across the country, encouraging dialogue about the trade and its legacies.”