Legal Records of Enslavement
The economic nature of the slave trade is ever present in these 18th and 19th century documents that constantly juxtapose enslaved people with financial transactions that resonate so easily with our current understanding of terms like purchase, sale, insurance policy, and the payment of debt. Traces of personhood such as first names, gender, the birth of children, their age, and even individual physical markings can be purveyors of humanity for a 21st century gaze interested in the universal dignity and protection of individual rights. The selection of these limited descriptive categories within the “legal” paperwork of the post Mid-Atlantic slave trade that had ended in 1808, serve as “legitimate” tools for the continued subjugation of enslaved people already present on the continent. Business has redefined words like females, infants, young girl or young boy and dissociated these terms with life giving, familial, and communal relationships.