Image 'The sale', 1863

TLF ID M008730

This is a colour lithographic card showing a male slave being sold in a slave auction. The white auctioneer appears to be calling for bids. A notice in the background announces 'FOR SALE A likely young NEGRO'. The card was third in a collectable series of 12 album cards entitled 'The slave in 1863. A thrilling series of the great evil.', produced by US artist Henry Louis Stephens in Philadelphia.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This card is a valuable 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. It is not clear whether the artist meant this slave to be seen as one of the estimated 645,000 brought to the USA from Africa from 1619 onwards, or as one born in the USA and sold in the internal slave trade. More than a million people are believed to have been sold in internal trade between 1790 and 1860.
  • Auctions were the usual way of selling slaves and were held in the cities and towns of the south, often in hotels or assembly rooms. Before the bidding started, potential buyers would inspect the slaves thoroughly, lifting the corners of their eyes, examining their teeth and handling their bodies. 'Likely young' male slaves as depicted here were at a premium because of the demand for their labour on the cotton plantations.
  • This series of cards was produced primarily to appeal to the mass market in the north. It was also intended to persuade northerners who were fighting the Southern states in the American Civil War (1861-65) that their cause was just. Slavery was the 'great evil' and the cards traced the life of a slave through his years of bondage and enforced separation from family, through to his escape and reaching of the Union lines, his joining the Union army and finally dying in the cause of liberty.
Topics Auctions Slavery
Learning area
  • History

Other details

  • Author
  • Person: Henry Louis Stephens
  • Description: author
  • Contributor
  • Name: The Library of Congress
  • Organization: The Library of Congress
  • Description: content provider
  • Address: UNITED STATES
  • URL:
  • Person: Henry Louis Stephens
  • Description: author
  • 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.