Two slave boys, up for sale! How much are they worth?
It depends on whether you’re talking about 1860 or 2010.
Centuries ago, Africans were brought to the Western Hemisphere by the boatload—literally. They were sold as property and put to work on farms and plantations. Owners hoped to recoup their initial investment and to profit through ownership of generations of slaves. All these years later, most of the men, women, and children that were slaves for centuries across our country’s history are relegated to no more than faceless and nameless entries in books about the era. Once in a while, a few nameless photos are found and they may make news.
A recent article speaks about two boys who were photographed on a barrel. The photo is said to have come out of a North Carolina attic. it caught my attention because I have ancestral ties to the era, the state, and to the trade. These could be some of my ancestors.
Reading the article, I saw how someone named Keya Morgan is said to have paid $30,000 for the album which contained the photo and several others. He also is supposed to have paid $20,000 for a “sale document” that allegedly ties to one of the boys in the photo. OK—so I’ve been doing genealogical work for about 8 years now and cannot find reliable documentation or sources to tie to known family photos. How does this guy reliably tie this sale document to a specific person in a specific photo after almost 140 years, and with no links to anyone in the family to provide identification? (In case you’re wondering, I don’t believe this is reliable and would not give his story any credit.)
Back on point: The story bothers me not because I question Mr Morgan’s honesty or integrity. No. And I really don’t care about his spending habits. I don’t care that he has a way of staying in the news with “new” and “rare” photos. In fact, if you check the ebay listing below, you can see for yourself just how rare the photo is. But what I do find interesting is that in this day and age when slavery is no longer legal, someone is still finding a way to make money off of slaves.
You see, Mr Morgan runs a gallery in NYC. It has been featured in Time, CNN, Fox News, and The New York Times. In short, it’s a commercial enterprise. Anyone who owns a gallery and is willing to spend $50,000 for photos and slave documents—in my opinion—is in it for the notoriety and ensuing profit opportunities. There’s nothing noble about this story. Mr Morgan stands to profit off of these slave boys just like the original owners did nearly a century and a half ago. The difference is that Mr Morgan stands to make far more money off of the hardships these boys and their families endured.
It would be nice to be able to claim these boys and to add them to the rightful family tree. Then again, if there were no profit to be made from such photos and documents, it is unlikely that some of them would still be in existance today.
Note: According to the ebay seller, “Offered for auction is a lot of 12 antique stereo view cards of Svannah, Georgia. All of the cards are by” J.N. Wilson, Photographer, 21 Bull Street, Svannah, Georgia”. Five of the cards are numbered 1-5 and have a printed description of “Bonaventure” a picturesque platation. The rest of the cards have hand written descriptions and are all higher numbered. There are four cards of plantation scenes of field hands and families working in the cotton fields. One of these cards shows two young boys sitting on a barrel and carries the very politically incorrect title “Plantation Scene: Happy Little N**s. The other cards are of scenic views around Savannah. All of the cards are in good condition with just a bit of the common warping. Add these very interesting antique viewer cards to your collection.”
Not quite $30,000—the collection sold for $163.00 after 18 bids.
Please take a read of what Kate Marcus has to say on Before It’s News about the topic. She has done far more research on this than I have and if not for her work, some of this article would not have been possible.
Maybe Mara Gay should have done her homework as well and verified her information first.