New Orleans Slave Auction: On This Day, March 13, 1855

“178 Sugar and Cotton Plantation Slaves!” J. A. Beard & May, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1855. (Gilder Lehrman Institute)On March 13 and 14, 1855, the firm of J. A. Beard & May placed on the auction block 178 enslaved men, women, and children at the Banks Arcade in New Orleans, Louisiana. They were part of the estate of William M. Lambeth, who had died in 1853. To settle the estate, Judge J. N. Lea had ordered the sale of 127 slaves from the Waverly plantation and 51 from the Meredith plantation, both in Avoyelles Parish.

The catalog from this auction includes the business aspects of the slave trade, listing the purchase terms as "one-third cash, and the remainder at 12 months’ credit, for approved city paper, bearing vendor’s lien and mortgage on the Slaves, and eventual interest of 8 per cent." 

However, the catalog also personalizes the slaves by providing details about specific individuals and family relationships. The document stipulates that “the slaves will be sold singly, and when in families, together.” The catalog, which can be read in its entirety here, opens a small window onto the lives of individuals who might otherwise have been lost to history.

“178 Sugar and Cotton Plantation Slaves!” J. A. Beard & May, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1855. (Gilder Lehrman Institute)


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