Thursday, January 19, 2017

Forks of the Road Slave Market, Natchez, MS


In the decades prior to the American Civil War, market places where enslaved Africans were bought and sold could be found in every town of any size in Mississippi. Natchez was unquestionably the state’s most active slave trading city, with the Forks of the Road Market having the highest volume in the city.
Click on any of the pictures to enlarge them.


The 19th century slave trade in Mississippi was linked to the growth of the textile industry in England, which had created a voracious market for cotton by the end of the 18th century. Cotton planters in Mississippi and in neighboring states quickly found that slave labor made their business a highly profitable enterprise.  Although a federal law passed in 1807 prohibited the further importation of Africans, a potential slave labor force was already available in the older slave states. Natchez played a significant role in the southward movement of the existing slave population to the waiting cotton plantations of the Deep South.

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The market, at the intersection of two streets, became especially important after the slave traders, Isaac Franklin of Tennessee and John Armfield of Virginia, purchased the land in 1823. They were soon to become the most active slave traders in the United States.  Franklin and Armfield were among the first professional slave traders to take advantage of the relatively low prices for slaves in the Virginia–Maryland area, and the profit potential offered by the growing market for slaves in the Deep South. Tens of thousands of mistreated slaves passed through the market, transported from Virginia and the Upper South (many by walking overland), and destined for the plantations in the Deep South. In this forced migration, more than one million enslaved Black people were taken from their families and moved southward.

Slave prices tended to rise and fall with the price of cotton and the degree to which expenses incurred by the interstate slave traders affected their margin of profit. In the period between 1825 and 1830, the average price for young adult male slaves in Virginia was $400. In contrast, Isaac Franklin sold four slaves (sex unspecified) at the Forks of the Road in 1826-27 for $700, $600, $500, and $450.  By early 1850, male slaves at Forks of the Road were advertised at $825 each, and females were priced at $700 and $600. By early 1861, with a civil war looming, prices for Virginia field hand slaves had climbed to an average of $1,200 each.  Forks of the Road prices were correspondingly high during the early months of 1861 when field hands were advertised from $1,600 to $1,650.


All trading at the market ceased by the summer of 1863, when Union troops occupied Natchez.
Information above per Wikipedia and Mississippi History Now.

For more pictures, please click here.

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