Slaves were treated as strictly capital, similar to how cattle in feed lots are treated in today’s society. Slaves were transported in Coffles, which are “groups chained to one another on forced marches (Foner 336)”, kept it overcrowded, insanity conditions, denied medical care, killed off if the traders didn’t believe there was a profit in them anymore, placed in a showroom and auctioned out,then were subjected to brutal and often unwarranted violence from their masters. Slaves were often dressed in clothing that represented cleanliness or order before being taken to the showrooms. Slave traders felt if they gave the slaves a classy appearance that it would help defer the typical sterotypes of that time period that blacks were “childlike and lazy (Foner 346)” while still promoting the belief that they are “unsuited for republican freedom (Foner 346).” However, all it did was turn individual slaves into “physical symbols of their own salability (Johnson 121)” and left “nothing else about them immediately apparent (Johnson 121).” Slave traders even went as far as to ‘drive’ the slaves around a ring to showcase how well they move to the buyers, further implementing the idea of an individual person having a solitary and dependent worth.
Being one of the most thriving up and coming cities of the nineteenth century due to the gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi river, and the vast access to large amounts of land suitable to grow cotton, New Orleans became one of the largest hubs for the slave trade and therefor one of the most influential cities in the making of slaves as a sellable product. New Orleans also brought tourism from all over to the cities where the slave traders were located, further spreading the idea that slaves were capital items across the country and globe. While paid servants existed in this time period, people of the South had a special fixation on the social hierarchy of owning a slave. This deep rooted desire to own a slave as your own property in American history is what isolated the blacks into a category of sellable produce instead of independant human beings and helped to shape the Antebellum slave trade into exactly what it was “a single transaction on its leading edge- a trader, a buyer, and a slave making a bargain that would drastically change the life of each (Johnson 18)” in significantly different ways and for many years to come.
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