As Stark as It Gets - Once upon a time in America
My brother recently sent me an e-mail that contained a copy of the original flyer announcing a slave sale in Charleston, S.C., in 1833. The leaflet, which testifies to the diasporan nature of our history in the West, was one of several found in Guyana in the late 1970s in the vault of Sandbach Parker & Co. Originally McInroy, Sandbach and Co., Sandbach Parker were Scottish importers, exporters, shipping and estate agents involved mainly in the trade in slaves (“prime Gold Coast Negroes,” according to Guyanese historian J. Rodway), sugar, coffee, molasses and rum. They established themselves in what was then British Guiana around 1790 and sprouted various and sundry branches through the centuries until, the company never having recovering from its first losses in the early 1960s, it expired in 1972.
In acknowledgement of Black History Month, here, verbatim, is the text of the flyer. As we say, if you don’t know where you came from, then you won’t know where you’re going and any breeze will take you there.
Public Sale of Negroes,
By RICHARD CLAGETT.
On Tuesday, March 5th, 1833 at 1:00 P.M. the following Slaves will be sold at Potters Mart, in Charleston, S.C.
Miscellaneous Lots of Negroes, mostly house servants, some for field work.
Conditions: cash, balance by bond, bearing interest from date of sale. Payable in one to two years to be secured by a mortgage of the Negroes, and appraised personal security. Auctioneer will pay for the papers.
A valuable Negro woman, accustomed to all kinds of house work. Is a good plain cook, and excellent dairy maid, washes and irons. She has four children, one a girl about 13 years of age, another 7, a boy about 5, and an infant 11 months old. 2 of the children will be sold with mother, the others separately, if it best suits the purchaser.
A very valuable Blacksmith, wife and daughters; the Smith is in the prime of life, and a perfect master at his trade. His wife about 27 years old, and his daughters 12 and 10 years old have been brought up as house servants, and as such are very valuable. Also for sale 2 likely young negro wenches, one of whom is 16 the other 13, both of whom have been taught and accustomed to the duties of house servants. The 16 year old has one eye.
A likely yellow girl about 17 or 18 years old, has been accustomed to all kinds of house and garden work. She is sold for no fault. Sound as a dollar.
House servants: The owner of a family described herein, would sell them for a good price only; they are offered for no fault whatever, but because they can be done without, and money is needed. He has been offered $1250. They consist of a man 30 to 33 years old, who has been raised in a genteel Virginia family as house servant. Carriage driver etc., in all of which he excels. His wife a likely wench of 25 to 30, raised in like manner as chamber maid, seamstress, nurse, etc., their two children, girls of 12 and 4 or 5. They are bright mulattoes, of mild tractable dispositions, unassuming manners, and of genteel appearance and well worthy the notice of a gentleman of fortune needing such.
Also 14 Negro Wenches ranging from 16 to 25 years of age, all sound and capable of doing a good days work in the house or field.
So it was in America, once upon a time.
By Rosalind McLymont