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An Unholy Traffic: Slave Trading in the Civil War South

June 13 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm


From Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Confederates bought and sold thousands of men, women, and children through a surviving trade in slaves. Even though the war destroyed the cotton economy that had long underpinned American slavery and fueled the slave trade, Confederates used slave commerce to shape their experiences of the war, whether to help them mobilize for the conflict or to weather the numerous crises it created. Some speculated wildly in human property to ward off inflation or to buy shares in the slaveholding future for which they fought. Still others traded people to keep them from achieving the freedom the war offered. For those held in slavery, meanwhile, the surviving slave trade dramatically shaped the ways in which they encountered liberty, yanking many back into bondage while inspiring others to risk flight. The Civil War slave trade thus profoundly shaped the experience of the conflict for all residents of the South. Regardless of the choices they made—to buy or to sell people, to risk sale or to flee from it—the effects of the slave trade reverberated throughout the conflict and produced legacies that endured long after the guns fell silent.

Dr. Robert Colby is an assistant professor at the University of Mississippi. His work on the domestic slave trade during the Civil War has won the Society of American Historians’ Allan Nevins Prize and the Anthony Kaye Memorial Essay Award and Anne J. Bailey Prize from the Society of Civil War Historians. He was also a finalist for the Southern Historical Association’s C. Vann Woodward Award. Dr. Colby is the author of An Unholy Traffic: Slave Trading in the Civil War South.


June 13
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:


Virginia Museum of History Culture


Virginia Museum of History & Culture
428 North Arthur Ashe Boulevard
Richmond, 23220 United States
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