Random Thoughts: Change, Primary Sources & Other Stuff

Seeing it in Person: The Charleston Slave Market

Posted on: February 4, 2018

There is nothing quite like seeing what we’ve read about in person!

A few days ago I visited the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston where the auction for 55 Prime Negroes, accustomed to the culture of Rice was held at 11:00 am January 21, 1857, by Louis D. DeSaussure – There it was, a reproduction of a familiar document I use in various teaching activities.

It is believed that 35 – 40% of the slaves in the United States entered through the port of Charleston. Many were sold at Ryan’s mart, owned by Thomas Ryan, a Charlotte alderman and former sheriff.  Ryan’s mart is the only known existent building used as a slave auction gallery in South Carolina and on the National Register of Historic Sites.

Most of the story about the journey to America and the auction process is told through visuals, but some artifacts exist. These include a whip, chains, balls, and the chilling auction block.

The flyer is ideal for observation, questioning, and encouraging engaged discussion.

  1. Understanding flyer vocabulary
  2. Descriptions of the slaves and what they mean
  3. The condition of the document and written notations
  4. Issues surrounding using the document in the classroom

Related Resources


Rice field tools displayed at the Rice Museum, Georgetown, Georgia.

The Rice field flyers are available through Duke University Libraries Emergence of Advertising in America, 1850 – 1920.  Search for auction flyers such as List of 17 Rice Field Negroes for Sale and 55 Prime Negroes


Content is part of a longer post  published on the Teaching With Primary Sources Network, Feb. 2018



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