(Note: the following is material based on a book, The Story of America – by John Garraty)
From the book:
No aspect of slavery brought home the inhumanity of it more than the slave auction. Slaves waited as buyers looked them over, deciding their fate and often that of their familes. Josiah Henson recalled:
“The crowd collected round the stand (auctioneer’s platform), the huddling group of Negroes, the examination of muscle, teeth, the exhibition of agility, the look of the auctioneer, the agony of my mother – I can shut my eyes and see them all.
“My brothers and sisters were bid off first, and one by one, while my mother, paralyzed by grief, held me by the hand. Her turn came, and she was bought by Issac Riley of Montgomery County. Then I was offered to the assembled purchasers. My mother, half distracted with the thought of parting forever from all her children pushed through the crowd, while the bidding for me was going on, to the spot where Riley was standing. She fell at his feet, and clung to his knees, entreating (begging) him in tones that a mother could only command, to buy her baby as well as herself, and to spare to her one, at least, of her little ones. Will it, can it be believed that this man, thus appealed to, was capable not merely of turning a deaf ear to her supplication (request) but of disengaging himself from her with such violent blows and kicks, as to reduce her to the necessity of creeping out of his reach, and mingling the groan of bodily suffering with the sob of a breaking heart? As she crawled away from the brutal man I heard her sob out, “Oh Lord Jesus, how long, how long shall I suffer this way!” I must have been then five and six years old.”
Passage borrowed from Truth Stranger Than Fiction, Father Henson’s story of His Own Life by Josiah Henson.
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper: The Slave Auction