Image 'United States slave trade, 1830'

TLF ID M008727

This is a black-and-white print showing the trading of slaves in the USA. Two white men, one on horseback and both carrying whips, appear to be negotiating the sale of five slaves seen on the left in shackles. A woman and two children, also in chains, appear on the right. In the background are slaves working in the fields, one being flogged, and a group of slaves being rowed ashore from a ship. The dome of the Capitol building in Washington, DC, is in the distance. It is not known when the engraving was printed but its copper plate appears to date from 1830.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This abolitionist engraving is a highly significant source for the year 9 history depth study elective Movement of peoples (1750-1901), which studies the influence of the industrial revolution on the movement of peoples throughout the world, including the transatlantic slave trade. The engraving was intended to persuade its audience of the evils of slavery in general and of the slave trade in particular.
  • The major theme of the engraving is the inhumanity of the slave trade. This is exemplified by the uncaring attitude of the traders and the suffering of the slave seen begging not to be sold away from his wife and children. The scene appears to be taking place in the state of Virginia and one Chesapeake historian has estimated that in the 1830s every extended slave family of 50 in the area risked losing ten of its members in half a generation in the internal US slave trade.
  • The Atlantic trade of captives from Africa had been outlawed by the USA in 1808 but the engraving alleges that it was still going on in 1830. The demand for slaves on US cotton plantations was such that smuggling African slaves was a lucrative business. Most historians believe that while it continued unabated in the 1810s, it was almost eliminated by the 1820s when slave smuggling into the USA was declared to be piracy, punishable by death.
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Publisher
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organization: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Description: Publisher
  • Address: VIC, AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
  • Resource metadata contributed by
  • Name: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Address: AUSTRALIA
  • URL:
Access profile
  • Generic
Learning Resource Type
  • Image
  • © Commonwealth of Australia, 2011, except where indicated otherwise. You may copy, communicate and modify this material for non-commercial educational purposes provided you retain all acknowledgements associated with the material.