This was actually a school project, a five page paper, that turned into so much more.
The Auction Block, 1786
The auction block: such an innocent soundin’ thing. I can tell you right now it ain’t. It’s awful. A big wooden stand with a podium and a gavel is all there is to it. Simple, right? Wrong. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever had to do. They stand us up next to it and then show us off like cattle. The buyers walk by me but none ever pause. They just keep walkin’ and I don’t wonder why. I’m a scrawny thing, I ain’t quick or strong; I ain’t pretty neither. Nothin’ that would make a good slave. Slowly the other slaves are sold by the auctioneer, who tells the crowd what fine specimens they are, strong like an ox or gentle with the children. The whites shout out numbers, bids, and the slave goes to the highest bidder.
Jenny’s in front of me. When it comes her time the ropes are cut and she’s led up the steps, but not before she turns and winks at me. Jenny is “a pretty young woman with strength unknown to us folk,” the auctioneer calls gaily to the crowd. “And look at these hands-” he pauses to show them to the crowd. “Fit for rocking a baby to sleep. Lets start the bidding at… $250!” Numbers are shouted ‘cross the lawn and in the end Jenny is sold for $476 and a nickel. Her new master hustles to the front and drags her down by the elbow. She don’t slip once. I love that woman.
Then it’s my turn. A lump the size of a horse has formed in my throat and no matter how many times I swallow it won’t budge. My ropes are cut and I’m led up the wooden stairs. I’m shakin’ so hard I don’t think I can stand and true to my thoughts my knees buckle and the auctioneer has to hold me up. He don’t say anythin’ just grips me tight and tries to cover it up. The show must go on and all. Gruntin’ he sets me on my feet keepin’ a hand on my arm ‘case I fall again.
“Well,” he says, slightly pantin’. “I’m not going to lie. She’s not a looker.” Chuckles follow his remark and I scowl, fightin’ the tears that are burnin’ in my eyes. “But ladies and gents look at these muscles!” He halfheartedly pulls at my arm. “Right. We’ll start the bidding at $75.” $75! Only 75! I thought I would be worth at least a bit more. The man with Jenny steps forward.
“I’ll give you $80 for her, Tom,” he says.
“$80 my-” the man, Tom, starts, but the man raises a finger to silence him.
“You know you’ll receive nothing more for her. You’re lucky I’ll pay this much. Go ahead, auction her at $80.”
Tom stumbles over his words like a new calf on wobbly legs. “Eighty- eighty dollars to Mister LeGraph,” he looks around hopefully, but nothing else is shouted, no hands are raised. “Eighty going once,” again he pauses. “Twice,” he looks a bit desperate now. “And… sold to Mister LeGraph,” he says crestfallen.
I have been sold to a Mister LeGraph for eighty measly dollars, an all time low.