Slave Market of America

Slave Market of America

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Although the importation of slaves was outlawed in 1807, the domestic slave trade remained a major economic establishment in America until the Civil War. Before its retrocession to Virginia, the city of Alexandria had been part of the District of Columbia and served as one of the largest slave markets in the U.S. Towards the middle of the 19th century, a number of abolitionists moved to the capital and began calling for the end of the slave trade there.
This 1836 broadside published by the American Anti-Slavery Society names D.C. the “Slave Market of America … The Residence of 7000 Slaves.” It begins by listing several passages on equality and freedom from the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, several state constitutions, and the Bible, which the reader would find incongruent with the visible reality of the ongoing slave trade in the capital. In the first row of vignettes, a scene on the left depicts the signing of the Declaration of Independence, entitled “The Land of the Free,” and is contrasted with another on the right, “The Home of the Oppressed,” which features a group of slaves being led past the Capitol Building. A map of Washington is included between these two scenes, and contains two insets of slaves, one in a kneeling, suppliant position, and the other running from slavery, accompanied by an inscription, “$200 Reward.” The next row contains three images of prisons in Washington, built to detain unsold slaves and runaways. The broadside claims that many of these prisoners are actually free men and women, falsely accused of being slaves. The final row contains three illustrations of chained slaves leaving the slave house of J.W. Neal & Co., slaves being loaded onto a ship in Alexandria harbor, and the private slave prison of Franklin and Armfield, an Alexandria firm that was one of the largest slave traders in the antebellum South. The broadside concludes with a list of names of Congressmen and their voting record on the issue of slavery in the District of Columbia.
The broadside was issued by the American Anti-Slavery Society, an abolitionist activist group founded by William Lloyd Garrison and Arthur Tappan in 1833. By 1840, the Society had gained between 150,000 and 200,000 members. It held public meetings, printed vast quantities of anti-slavery propaganda (such as this piece), petitioned Congress, and sponsored lecturers to further the cause of the Abolition Movement in the North. Its membership was composed of white Northerners with religious and/or philanthropic convictions, but also free black citizens, including Frederick Douglass, who often delivered first-hand accounts of his life as a slave during the Society’s public meetings. This particular broadside was printed by William S. Dorr, who was based in New York City.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Object Type
Date made
American Anti-Slavery Society
Dorr, William S.
place made
United States: New York, New York City
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
ink (overall material)
image: 25 1/2 in x 19 1/8 in; 64.77 cm x 48.5775 cm
overall: 28 in x 21 1/2 in; 71.12 cm x 54.61 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Lithography Collection
Chronology: 1830-1839
U.S. National Government, legislative branch
Reform Movements
Architecture, Domestic Buildings
Communication, broadsides
Civil War
Civil War
See more items in
Cultural and Community Life: Domestic Life
Clothing & Accessories
Domestic Furnishings
American Civil War Prints
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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