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Slave Auction Re-Enactment in St. Louis (VIDEO)

Slave Auction Re-Enactment in St. Louis (VIDEO)

Attempts to whitewash the American slave trade and confederacy have grown thick as southern Republicans take the leadership reigns of the national party.  Eric Cantor, Haley Barbour, and Bob McDonnell are the most recent examples of white leadership looking to gloss over the pain and reality of slavery in favor of “celebrating” a confederate history of “states rights.”

But at least one professor is pushing back against that narrative.  Angela deSilva, adjunct professor of American Studies held an antebellum slave auction on the steps of the old St. Louis courthouse.  The move comes as the 150th anniversary of the Civil War gets celebrated by such things as a “secessionist ball” and a reenactment of the inauguration of Jefferson Davis.  DeSilva, a descendent of slaves, decided to hold the event as a means of continuing the conversation and making sure that this dark moment of our nation’s history is not forgotten.

By all accounts the event stirred strong emotions, and how could it not.  Slave auctions were held as part of probate proceedings, and the reenactment demonstrated an estate auction typical of the era.  According to one witness, a group of African American men, women and children were led to the steps of the courthouse in chains.  Some cried, some pled and some simply stood there in silent protest of their fate.  Children were separated from their parents, orphaned siblings sold to separate masters.  Interested buyers inspected the teeth and limbs of their new property.

The event was a stark reminder that despite all its beauty our nation and our Constitution was born of the idea that white, property holding men are equal to one another but that an entire other class of persons was nothing more than chattel.  And while the event struck raw nerves, deSilva’s point of forcing a conversation and  an insistence that Americans do not forget the buying and selling of people is an unfortunate necessity in a country still healing from the destruction of the slave trade 150 years later.

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photo courtesy of FredMikeRudy via Flickr

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43 comments

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6:24AM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

It's sick. I do not see how Americans could have conscionably bought and sold PEOPLE. I know which side of that war I would have been on. Thanks.

11:33AM PST on Feb 24, 2011

A compelling way to make sure the sorry history of slavery is not white-washed by "states rights" repubs, be they southern or northern.

1:33PM PST on Jan 25, 2011

"History is written by the victors" Winston Churchill.
It's good to get "the other side" when the powerful try this sort of "rose coloured glasses"again (as depicted in movies like "Birth of a Nation" and "Gone with the Wind" etc).

Slavery is an abomination at any time in any country. It makes people into mere things to be used .
At present, we have more pirates (eg Asian and Arabian high seas) than in the Spanish Main heyday. We have more slavery (Human Trafficking) than ever before in the history of man-estimates at 27,000,000- millions in the sex trade but mostly forced labour/servitude ...including a large proportion of children.
If you wish to end it, stop buying "cheap" goods at Walmart and allowing authorities to turn a blind eye to children prostitutes.
As David Suzuki says, whenever you buy anything ask2 questions
"where does it come from and where is it going?"

11:24PM PST on Jan 23, 2011

noted :0

10:20PM PST on Jan 21, 2011

Americans must be reminded of many things, and the horrors of slavery is certainly one of them.

9:53PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

This country's economic system to a large part was built on slavery and cheap labor. To a large part, a big part of this country still sees people of color as second class citizens. The black people did not ask to be brought to this country, they were brought here against their will as slaves. Now the people who brought them here,are being forced to deal with them on an equal basis, which many of them still are not willing to do. The white man brought the black man here and now doesn't know what to do with him. Now this country is being forced to deal with an entirely different type of people of color. A people who were born in this country and are invested in this country, are citizens of this country and have the right and expect to be treated with equality. This country created these people and now has to deal with them.

9:08PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

slavery is still their all over the world except the pattern has changed he is now allowed to negotiate the salary but not terms and condition of employment

5:16PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

People should see what buying and owning other human beings looks like. They should also know what the reality of some of these people's lives was really like.

Other reality should be acknowledged, too. Attempts to show genuine ultrasounds of abortions, such as in the films "The Silent Scream" and "The Eclipse of Reason" have been rejected by the mainstream. People are too scared to be confronted or sickened, however, and so the lie continues, just as it did in the days of slavery. It's much easier to shield one's eyes, or else (worse!) to pretend that those who are being so horribly abused (and killed) are not actually human.

An abortion is performed, on average in the world, every second of the day.

And slavery continues to this day, as well. Slavery for sex is just one example.

4:05PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

Lets hope one day all countries can say that slavery is in the past.

3:47PM PST on Jan 20, 2011

This video is interesting but from my studies of the slave trade and auctions, the people were stripped naked or almost naked, beaten, ridiculed and treated like animals, not people. They were in chains and shackles or held in cages like wild animals. I made a trip a few years back to Virginia and Carolina. I went off the beaten trail and advertised tourist sites. There I met Black people who were still, as they told me, still slaves but now they got paid. I did go to one event, a tobacco auction where the workers, Black people, appeared as they did over a hundred years ago. They were still being ordered like slaves by their, I guess one would say employers. They were still subdued, uneducated and fearful of their boss man. Anyone want to read a good book which is a true story, The Same Kind of Different as Me. Slavery still exists, but in a different way.

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