Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Forks of the Road

Between 1800 and 1860, hundreds of thousands of black Americans were "sold down the river" to plantations in the newly developing areas of the Gulf Coast, the Mississippi Delta and east Texas. This internal slave trade is not very well known -- how many people know that for 20 years the busiest slave port in the new world was Wheeling, West Virginia? -- but in the past few decades historians have been working to document the trade and preserve important sites associated with it. I did my own small part in this cause by excavating at Joseph Bruin's slave jail in Alexandria, Virginia, one of many collection points in the old South where slaves were gathered for shipment west. The most important slave markets in the west were in New Orleans and at the Forks of the Road near Natchez, Mississippi. The Forks of the Road market has been the subject of a particularly intensive effort to document and memorialize what happened there, and now there is a very informative little brochure on the site that you can read here.

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