Appraised, Bartered, and Sold: The Value of Human Chattels, 1790-1865


Frederick Burkhardt Residential Fellowships for Recently Tenured Scholars




For residence at the National Humanities Center during academic year 2007-2008


This study examines slave prices in the Upper and Lower South, from 1790-1865, with an emphasis on planters' criteria and slaves' perceptions of their value. Although some of the data presented employs a statistical regression model, this work also addresses the social, political, and historical impact of slave prices on all parties involved in the domestic slave trade. Enslaved men and women negotiated their value on the auction block, while their owners and traders sold them for the highest bid. A close look at the conflicting motives among owners, traders, and slaves reveals interesting patterns that have contemporary importance to public policies relating to slave insurance claims and the ongoing debate about African American reparations.