Purchased Lives | National Civil Rights Museum

Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 and 1865 exhibition

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Purchased Lives: The American Slave Trade from 1808 and 1865 exhibition covers a 57-year period, from America’s abolition of the international slave trade through the end of the Civil War. During this time, more than two million people were forcibly moved within the boundaries of the United States and its territories, wreaking havoc on the lives of enslaved men, women and children. Owners and traders in the Upper South—Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Washington, DC—sold and shipped surplus laborers to the expanding Lower South. For many enslaved people their long and difficult journeys led them to New Orleans—the largest slave market in antebellum America—where they were then sold and scattered to points across Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

The exhibition includes more than 75 original items, including period broadsides, paintings and prints illustrating the domestic slave trade, ship manifests and first-person accounts from slave narratives and oral histories. The display also includes a collection of “Lost Friends” ads placed after the Civil War by newly freed people attempting to locate family members. Three interactive displays will allow visitors to engage directly with the historical record, including a database tracking the shipment of more than 70,000 people to New Orleans from other US ports.

Curated and originally hosted by The Historic New Orleans Collection, the display examines one of the most challenging eras of U.S. history.  It is made possible in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Purchased Lives Exhibit Photos

San Basilio de Palenque, Bolívar;
This young man, perched on the goal posts of a soccer field in San Basilio de Palenque, represents the present and future of a community that in 2005 joined UNESCO's list of World Cultural Heritage Sites.

Purchased Lives Exhibit Photos

Traditional Mining; Artisanal mining remains an important economic activity among Afro-Colombian families in the Pacific region. In this photo, artisanal miners in Tadó, Chocó labor in an alluvial gold mine.

Purchased Lives Exhibit Photos

The Torres Family House in the Village of Sansón; Members of the Torres family have been among the greatest marimba players in Colombia’s southern Pacific. ​​​​​​​Their family home is typical of Afro-Colombian constructions, built to accommodate extended families, and the place to listen to music and dance ​​​​​​​

Purchased Lives Exhibit Photos

Nohemí Cetré Camacho (left) and María Ángela Caicedo (right); Pots and pans and other kitchen instruments must be kept clean, bright, and visible. The same applies to clothing. Afro-Colombian women living along the river are adept ​​​​​​​in walking perfectly balanced with large containers on their heads with laundry or other items.

Purchased Lives Exhibit Photos

Cartagena, Bolívar; Slaves arrived at the port of Cartagena de Indias, where they were sold and forced to labor in territories throughout South America.​​​​​​​ This young man makes his living selling drinks atop the walls of the fortress-city built with the labor of enslaved Africans during the 16th and 17th centuries. The walls were built primarily as a defense against pirates.​​​​​​​

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