Domestic Slave Trade out of Virginia, 1790-1865 Presentation at MPAAGHS Monthly Meeting

March 11, 2017

Phil Troutman photo

Middle Peninsula African-American Genealogical and Historical Society of Virginia (MPAAGHS) will hold its monthly meeting on Saturday, March 11, 2017, at 11:00 a.m. at the Essex Public Library, 117 North Church Lane (Rt. 17), Tappahannock, Virginia (map).

Dr. Phillip Troutman, Assistant Professor of Writing and of History at The George Washington University in Washington, DC, will give a presentation on "The Second Middle Passage: the Domestic Slave Trade out of Virginia, 1790-1865" at the meeting.

Between the Revolution and the Civil War, 1.1 million African Americans were caught up in the domestic slave trade, forced to move from the coastal and upper South to the trans-Allegheny West and the Mississippi Delta. The majority moved alone, with no family. Nearly half were from Virginia. Some were tight-packed in ships out of Richmond, Alexandria, and Norfolk. Others walked overland, 20 miles a day, across the Cumberland Gap or all the way to Natchez. A person born into slavery in Virginia in 1830 stood a 30% chance of being sold away by 1860. In Eastern Shore counties, 20%-30% of enslaved people were sold away or moved out of Virginia each decade.

This talk starts with an overview of the slave market, how its networks spidered across the state and what that meant for families and individuals in slavery. But the focus is on the stories of enslaved Virginians who left a record of their experiences—how they survived the slave market, how they worked to re-make their lives, how they tried to reconnect with lost kin. And in one case, how 19 of them mutineed and went free in Jamaica. It draws heavily on their autobiographies, their oral interviews late in life, and even some letters they managed to write or dictate during slavery.

Dr. Troutman's work on US slavery includes "Grapevine in the Slave Market: African American Geopolitical Literacy and the 1841 Creole Revolt" in The Chattel Principle: Internal Slave Trades in the Americas (ed. Walter Johnson, 2004); and "Correspondences in Black and White: Sentiment in the Slave Market Revolution" in New Studies in the History of American Slavery (eds. E. Baptist and S. Camp, 2006). He is currently writing a book on radical anti-slavery visual rhetoric and is researching the history of slavery at Columbian College, now The George Washington University. Links to his work can be found at gwu.academia.edu/trout.

Dr. Troutman is a part of a 19-member faculty study group that is researching the university's historical relationship to slavery. In creating such a group, George Washington University, previously Columbian College, joined the ranks of institutions such as Georgetown, Brown, Yale, University of Virginia, and William and Mary who have begun to confront their ties to slavery and how they benefitted from the labor of enslaved people. Troutman has been working on the project since April of last year and has found a King and Queen County connection to George Washington University's slavery history.

In the 1840s, John Robert Smith and Abram/Abraham who were owned by Thomas Haynes of Bruington, were taken to Washington, D.C. to work at Columbian College. Troutman found references to both of these men in the minutes of Bruington Baptist Church in the archives of the Virginia Baptist Historical Society in Richmond. Smith and Abram/Abraham were members of Bruington where Haynes was a deacon. Records show that Smith played a role in the founding of both New Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Bethlehem Baptist Church. Troutman would like to find persons who might be descended from or otherwise have information about John Robert Smith or Abram/Abraham.

The meeting is free and open to the public. For further information about MPAAGHS, call 804.651.8753 or visit mpaagenealogicalsociety.org.