Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Duke Street Slave Pen, Alexandria Virginia 1861

The Duke Street Slave Pen
(Now the Offices of the Urban League)

     Alexandria, Virginia was a major center for the domestic slave trade during the antebellum period.  Hundreds of thousands of slaves were shipped to the labor hungry cotton fields of the Deep South. 

Slaves being sold to cotton planters further south were brought into Alexandria from the countryside and housed in the slave pen until the time for sale.  After sale, they were herded to the Alexandria wharves and shipped out in lots by steamboat.  Lewis Bailey, taken from his family and sold as a young boy walked back to Alexandria from Texas after the Civil War to be re-united with his mother. Masters were forced to explain why contented and well cared for servants ran away so frequently and in such large numbers.  Many owners concluded that frequent runaways were mentally imbalanced.  Masters devoted considerable energy to controlling the movement of slaves.  Written passes were needed to leave the plantation.  Overseers watched the slave quarters, slave patrols were formed, professional slave hunters were employed, and rewards were offered.

Slave trader George Kephart went out of business abruptly on May 24, 1861 as the Union army marched into Alexandria.  When Federal troops arrived at the slave pen on Duke Street, the pen was in complete disarray, the sole occupant one old slave still chained to the floor.

No comments: