<---Part 1: 1450-1750
Part 2: 1750-1805
Part 3: 1791-1831
Part 4: 1831-1865

Narrative | Resource Bank | Teacher's Guide

Historical Documents
Broadside announcing the sale of slaves

Resource Bank Contents

Broadside Announcing the Sale of Slaves

click image for close-up
With good reason, plantation masters feared the spread of smallpox. The introduction of the disease to their slaves could lead to an epidemic. They were therefore cautious when buying people recently imported from Africa. They avoided persons suffering from this contagious disease, but often paid higher prices for individuals with pock marks on their faces, showing that they had survived the sickness and would not become infected again.

Some broadsides announcing the sale of slaves made such statements as, "The utmost care has already been taken, and shall be continued, to keep them free from the least danger of being infected with the SMALL-POX." Other broadsides, such as the one displayed here from Charleston, South Carolina, revealed that slaves to be sold had been exposed to smallpox during their voyage but had been quarantined until the disease subsided. In an effort to prevent the spread of contagious diseases, or "pestilences," among South Carolina's population, colonial authorities required incoming slave ships to unload their unfree passengers at the "pest house" on Sullivan's Island near the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

CHARLESTOWN, April 27, 1769
On Wednesday the Tenth Day of
May next,
Two Hundred & Fifty
ARRIVED in the Ship
Countess of Sussex, Thomas Davies,
Master, directly from Gambia, by

THIS is the Vessel that had the Small-Pox on Board at the Time of her Arrival the 31st of March last: Every necessary Precaution hath since been taken to cleanse both Ship and Cargo thoroughly, so that those who may be inclined to purchase need not be under the least Apprehension of Danger from Infliction.

The NEGROES are allowed to be the likeliest Parcel that have been imported this Season.


Image Credit: Courtesy, American Antiquarian Society

previous | next

Related Entries:
Royal African Company established

Part 1: Narrative | Resource Bank Contents | Teacher's Guide

Africans in America: Home | Resource Bank Index | Search | Shop

WGBH | PBS Online | ©