Tide Turns Case 2
13th Amendment
Human Property

American slavery was not just an abusive system of labor but also a dehumanizing form of commerce. Enslaved African Americans with families and histories were reduced in the eyes of the law to individual pieces of property who could be bought and sold by their “owners” based solely on the color of their skin.

The concept of “human property” is vividly evident in these two documents: An 1832 bill selling a 20-year-old man named Dennis from one enslaver to another and a broadside for an 1855 sale of “Real Estate and Slaves” in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. Ironically, the legal status of enslaved people as “property” empowered the U. S. government to “confiscate” them during the Civil War—beginning a series of federal policies that eventually led to the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment.

Label Audio

Bill of Sale, 15 February 1832

I have this day sold to Joseph Wolf a negro boy Dennis [Newton] or twenty years old slave for life, I warrant said boy to be sound and free from all claims or claim whatever.

As witness my hand and seal this fifteen day of February one thousand eight hundred and thirty two.

Alfred [Fraston]

Bill of Sale Audio

Bill of sale gift of Elizabeth Haynie Tracy, 1925
Auction broadside gift of Betty Hickey, 1997

Isham N. Haynie Papers, folder 1 – Feb 1, 1832, enslaved bill of sale - Transcription


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