Robert J. Moore
Read the third person testimony of John Homrn in its entirety.
Rewrite the third person narrative in the first person. Imagine what emotions would be expressed that may have been omitted in the third person narration.
III. The Auction Block
Julius Lester in
To Be A Slave
found no redeeming virtues in slavery. Slaves had no semblance of security. Families could be broken up at any time without warning. The auction block, where slaves were sold, became the focal point of horror:
I don’t know how old I was when I found myself standing on the toppen (sic) part of a high stump with a lot of white folks walking around looking at the little scared boy that was me.
Above quoted passage reprinted by permission from
Library of Congress
To Be A Slave ©
1968 by Dell Publishing Company
Poignant first person slave narratives about being sold at auction are provided by B. A. Botkin in
Burden Down: A Folk History of Slavery
, from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1938. A narration “He Sold Him Over and Over” gives a humorous account that ends in understated tragedy:
There was a white man live close to us, but over in Louisian’. He had raised him a great big black man what brung (sic) fancy price on the block. The black man sure love that white man. This white man would sell Old Johnthat’s the black man’s nameon the block to some man from Georgia or other place far off. Then after while the white man would steal Old John back and bring him home and feed him good, then sell him again. After he had sold Old John some lot of times, he coaxed Old John off in the swamp one day, and Old John found dead several days later. The white folks said that the owner kilt (sic) him, ‘cause a dead nigger won’t tell no tales. (Botkin, 158-9)
Another moving tale is entitled “Two Sellings That Day.”
Then they says they gwine sell me, ‘cause Miss Nancy’s father-in-law dies and they got rid of some of us. She didn’t want to sell me, so she tell me to be sassy and no one would buy me. They takes me to Houston and to the market, and a man call George Fraser sells the slaves. The market was a (sic) open house, more like a shed. We all stands to one side till our turn comes. They wasn’t nothing else you could do.
Above quoted passages reprinted by permission from LAY
They stands me up on a block of wood, and a man bid me in. I felt mad. You see, I was young then, too young to know better. I don’t know what they sold me for, but the man what bought me made me open my mouth while he looks at my teeth. They done all us that-a-way, sells us like you sell a hoss (sic). Then my old master bids me goodby and tries to give me a dog, but I ‘members what Miss Nancy done say and I sasses him and slapped the dog out of his hand. So then man what bought me say, “When one o’clock come, you got to sell her ‘gain, she’s sassy. If she done me that way I’d kill her.” So they sells me twice the same day. They was two sellings that day. (Botkin, 153)
MY BURDEN DOWN ©
1945 by University of Chicago Press