Saturday, May 9, 2015

Henry Israel
Warrant Sound and Slave for Life

Henry Israel was an arm baby, four months old when he was sold to David Buie in 1837. His mother Ann was 16 years old; she was youthful and fertile. She could endure the long trip from Virginia and ahead of her were years of work and child bearing. David Buie paid $800 for mother and child in Natchez, Mississippi.

The Natchez Daily Courier
November 6th 1855

"I had one child Henry Israel when I came from Virginia. Mr. Buie bought me and him at Natchez." Ann, Henry's mother

Received of David Buie eight hundred dollars in full payment for two negroes, to wit, Ann 16 years of age and her child four months old, both negroes. I warrent(sp) to be sound, and slaves for life.
Theophus Freeman
Teste - Neil Buie

If they traveled by land, Ann and infant son would have been part of a coffle. A coffle was a convoy of slaves, mostly chained or roped together. The average coffle consisted of between 30 and 50 people. Men were placed in front, followed by women without children, children who were able to walk, and lastly, women with infants and small children who had to be carried. Major traders would have as many as 300 people. Determine by the destination, traveling 20 - 25 miles per day, the trip could take up to eight weeks.

"I can see de tragic sight, yet, of my people, chained together by deir han's in pairs, lined up in a long row, wid men leadin' 'em, and men at de end of de line takin' 'em to de auction-block." Ex-Slave, Foster Weathersby in Simpson County, MS

Traveling by water, they probably left Norfolk, VA, on a steam brig, navigating the Atlantic around the Florida Peninsula into the Gulf of Mexico. The brig would continue up the Mississippi River to the docks at New Orleans. Slaves destined for the Natchez market were transferred to steamboats for the remainder of the trip. The steam brigs were equipped to carry between 75 and 150 slaves, normally operated between October to May to avoid excessive heat in the tightly packed slave quarters aboard ship.

Once they arrived in Natchez, Ann, baby Henry and the others in their group would be groomed, well fed, and given new clothes for preparation of their impending sale.

"When dey got to Natchez de slaves was put in de pen 'tached to de slave markets. It stood at de forks o' St. Catherine Street an' de Liberty road. Here dey was fed an' washed an' rubbed down lak race hosses. Den dey was dressed up an' put through de paces dat would show off dey muscles. My pappy was sol' as a twelve year old, but he always said he was nigher twenty." Ex-Slave, Isaac Stier of Jefferson County, MS

Charles S. Sydnor’s book, Slavery in Mississippi, described The Forks of the Road Slave Market as follows: "A short distance out of Natchez in the angel of two roads were several low, rough, wooden buildings, that partially enclosed a narrow courtyard. In front of it usually found the saddle horses of planters or of the traders; inside were the Negroes awaiting sale. The entrance of a planter was a signal for the Negroes to line up, the men on one side and the women on the other."

The slave merchandise would be told how to show themselves off, to look cheerful and to speak up. The slaves would be formed into companies, according to size; the men, women, and children into separate groups. With this arrangement, the families among the group would often see the last of each other in this dreaded showroom.

Ann does not mention in her depositions, given in her son's Perry's pension case, if others of her family were sold along with her.

Next post: Ann and Henry arrive on the Buie plantation.


How does Henry connect to my family?
Henry Israel shared the same plantation with members of my family.

Additional source - African American Migration Experience - The Domestic Slave Trade


  1. Intriguing that this would be so commonplace. Tragic that it involved human souls. I'm glad these accounts survive to inform us. Thank you for sharing.

    1. On this Mother's Day, I am thinking of mothers and children separated from each other, then and now; American slavery and kidnapping of girls in Nigeria.

  2. Well, that was depressing. I spent part of mother's day holding my 6 week old granddaughter and being grateful we were all there and I was able to hold her.

    I like the way you painted the picture of the journey to the slave market and the market itself. Also the add you included...

    Finding Eliza

    1. We come from a strong people. I wonder if I could have been as strong as they were...Enjoy your beautiful granddaughter. They do grow up so fast.